ADHD News & Research

Study: Managing Impulsive Behavior in Teens May Help Prevent Antisocial Personality Disorder, Alcohol Abuse

Antisocial personality disorder and alcohol abuse are linked to underage drinking and adolescent antisocial behavior, a recent study found. Managing impulsive behavior during early adolescence may help prevent the disorders later in life.

August 19, 2022

Targeting and addressing impulsive behavior in early adolescence may help to prevent the development of antisocial personality disorder (APD) and alcohol use disorders (AUD), according to an article published in the Journal of Adolescent Mental Health. However, interventions for impulsivity after age 13 or 14 may not stop the cascade of problem behaviors developing into APD and AUD1.

The study set out to test the behavioral disinhibition model (BDM), which posits that impulsivity in early adolescence leads to substance use and antisocial behavior and that, in turn, substance use and antisocial behavior beget AUD and APD, respectively. The researchers found that early adolescent impulsivity directly predicted middle and late adolescent antisocial behavior and alcohol use.

Past middle adolescence (roughly ages 14 to 16), however, impulsive behavior did not correlate with antisocial behavior or alcohol use or with the development of APD and AUD. Only antisocial behavior and substance use were associated with a greater risk of APD and AUD in middle and late adolescence.

Researchers relied on data from the Philadelphia Trajectory Study, which comprised yearly interviews with a cohort of 364 ethnically and socioeconomically diverse youths aged 10-12 between 2004 and 2010. A final interview was conducted in 2012.

The authors’ findings validate the BDM and present novel clinical recommendations for preventing and treating adolescent alcohol use and antisocial behavior. The findings suggest that early adolescent impulsive behavior should be a target for intervention to prevent future issues arising from impulsivity. In middle to late adolescents, however, the focus should be on treating alcohol use and antisocial behavior instead of impulsivity to prevent APD and AUD.

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1Defoe, I. N., Khurana, A., Betancourt, L. M., Hurt, H., & Romer, D. (2022). Cascades From Early Adolescent Impulsivity to Late Adolescent Antisocial Personality Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorder. Journal of Adolescent Health. Elsevier BV.