The role of personality dispositions to risky behavior in predicting first-year college drinking

Melissa A. Cyders, Kate Flory, Sarah Rainer, Gregory T. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

276 Scopus citations


Aims: US college student drinking is associated with enormous risks to health, safety and productivity. Recent advances in personality research that have delineated multiple, separate dispositions to engage in risky behaviors may help to clarify the personality contribution to risk for this problem. Design: The authors compared the prospective roles of sensation seeking, lack of planning, lack of perseverance, negative urgency and positive urgency (dispositions to engage in rash action when in an unusually negative or positive mood, respectively) in predicting increases in drinking frequency, drinking quantity and negative outcomes from consumption across the first year of college. Setting: University of Kentucky campus. Participants: A total of 418 first-year US college students enrolled in an Introduction to Psychology course during the first assessment; 293 participants completed both phases of the study. Measurements: Participants completed self-report measures of personality and drinking behavior twice during the first year of college [the UPPS-R Impulsive Behavior Scale, positive urgency measure (PUM) and Drinking Styles Questionnaire (DSQ)]. Findings: Whereas sensation seeking related to increases in the frequency with which college students drank alcohol, positive urgency predicted increases in (i) the quantity of alcohol students consumed at any given drinking episode and (ii) negative outcomes experienced from drinking. Conclusions: It appears that although sensation seeking is a risk factor for participation in drinking behaviors, risk for increased quantity of consumption and its negative outcomes may be more a function of dyscontrol stemming from high positive mood for college students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-202
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Alcohol
  • Emotion
  • Impulsivity
  • Longitudinal
  • Positive urgency
  • Risky behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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