Title

An Investigation of Impulsivity as a Mediator between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adolescent Substance Use and Delinquency

Date of Award

2023

Degree Name

M.A. in Clinical Psychology

Department

Department of Psychology

Advisor/Chair

Jackson Goodnight

Abstract

Previous research has suggested that exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and impulsivity are risk factors for adolescent substance use and delinquency. Additionally, previous research has indicated that ACE exposure is associated with increased levels of impulsivity, suggesting that impulsivity may mediate associations between ACEs exposure and adolescent substance use and delinquency. However, very little research has tested this possible mediation pathway, especially longitudinally. The present study addressed these gaps in the literature. Using longitudinal data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN), the present study used path analyses to examine if: (1) exposure to ACEs is associated with increased levels of impulsivity, (2) if impulsivity is associated with increased levels of adolescent substance use and delinquency, and (3) if impulsivity mediates associations between ACEs and adolescent substance use and delinquency. Additionally, supplemental analyses examined the effects of specific clusters of ACEs and impulsivity subscales. Path analyses indicated that increased exposure to ACEs was associated with higher levels of impulsivity. Additionally, increased levels of impulsivity were associated with increased levels of marijuana use, and impulsivity acted as a mediator between ACEs and marijuana use. Finally, supplemental analyses revealed that the impulsivity subscale of decision time mediated associations between ACEs and marijuana use. Analyses did not reveal significant results for binge drinking, cigarette use, or delinquency. The present findings suggest that ACEs exposure is associated with increased risk for marijuana use through its associations with increased levels of impulsivity, specifically decision time.

Keywords

Clinical Psychology, Adverse childhood experiences, impulsivity, adolescent substance use, adolescent delinquency, childhood trauma

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2023, author

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