The personality-related construct of behavioral disinhibition is hypothesized to confer a generalized risk for alcohol and drug dependence. On average, rates of substance use and scores on measures of disinhibition peak in adolescence and decline as people mature into adulthood. The present study investigated this developmental change by evaluating the relationship between disinhibition and substance use disorders using a longitudinal study of 2,608 twins assessed at ages 17, 24, and 29. These ages include the period of highest risk for substance use disorders (ages 17-24) as well as when substance dependence symptoms typically decline (ages 24-29). Disinhibition was measured with the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire higher-order scale of Constraint, as well as its constituent facet scales of Harm Avoidance, Control, and Traditionalism. Constraint's relationship with substance dependence was statistically significant but small and largely genetic, with the genetic relationship declining from adolescence into adulthood. However, this result appeared to be almost entirely driven by Traditionalism, a propensity to hold traditional moral and social values, and not an obvious component of behavioral disinhibition. The results suggest that personality measures of Control and Harm Avoidance play only a small role in the development of substance dependence during late adolescence, and previous findings linking personality measures of disinhibition and substance use may be driven significantly by social and moral values than deficits in impulse control.
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Acknowledgments The research was supported by grants DA 05147, DA 13240, DA 024417, and DA 025868 of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; AA 09367 of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; and MH 017069 of the National Institute of Mental Health. Brian M. Hicks was supported by DA 025868.
- Behavioral disinhibition
- Substance dependence