Restricted Diversity Supplement Zapolski: Developmental Transitions and Risk for Alcohol Use

Grants and Contracts Details


The parent project is a longitudinal study of risk. In recent years, we and others have identified the trait of urgency (the tendency to act rashly when experiencing intense affect) as an important predictor of problem drinking and the related behaviors of drug use and risky sex in adults (Cyders et al., 2009a; Zapolski etal., in press). This project focuses on problem drinking onset during early adolescence. We identify adolescence onset (AO) as a potentially key turning point in development, and we define it as the joint experience of puberty and middle school entry. We hypothesize that the key personality factor of urgency, present prior to AO, predicts subsequent high risk learning and, through that learning, early onset drinking (and, as secondary goals, early onset eating disorders and smoking). We are studying 2,000 children from the spring of 5th grade (the last year of elementary school) through the spring of 8th grade, with assessments every six months. The core aim of the parent project is to test this sequential process: (1) AO is associated with increases in the intercept and mean slope of individual growth in urgency (developmentally, adolescence is characterized by normative increases in emotional lability and, we believe, urgency); (2) the increase in urgency predicts increases in the intercept and mean slope of growth in learned expectancies for reinforcement from drinking measured six months later (Smith et al., 2006); and (3) the increase in expectancy endorsement, in turn, predicts increases in the mean and slope of growth in drinking behavior measured another six months later. Thus, individual differences in development along high risk drinking trajectories will be predicted from urgency prior to AO and will be mapped using a framework that integrates disposition (urgency), psychosocial learning (expectancy), and behavior. To confirm the unique role of urgency (that is, the tendency to engage in emotion-based rash action) in this process, the second aim of the parent project is to contrast its role with that of sensation seeking (the tendency to seek out novel, thrilling stimulation). As has been shown in adults, urgency growth, through expectancies, will predict problem drinking, but sensation seeking will not. In contrast, sensation seeking will predict drinking frequency, but urgency will not (Cyders & Smith, 2007, 2008a, 2008b; Cyders et al., 2009a; Fried et al., 2008; Smith et al., 2007). To show that urgency plays a different role from general affectivity, urgency will predict growth in drinking behavior, and negative affectivity will not add to that prediction. In contrast, negative affectivity will predict growth in depression, and urgency will not add to that prediction. One key advance that made this project possible was the demonstration that urgency, and other impulsivity-related traits, could be measured prior to adolescence (Zapolski et al., 2009a).
Effective start/end date3/10/082/28/15


  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


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