Temperament and risky behaviors: a pathway to HIV?

J Affect Disord. 2005 Mar;85(1-2):191-200. doi: 10.1016/S0165-0327(03)00193-9.


Background: Certain sexual behaviors and abuse of substances contribute to the risk of becoming HIV-infected. Because dispositional characteristics are likely to influence this process, we examined the association between temperament and HIV serostatus in subjects with heavy use of drugs and various sexual risk behaviors.

Methods: Two hundred and thirty individuals (81% of whom were HIV-infected) were assessed for underlying temperamental characteristics, substance use, and risky sexual behaviors. Toward this goal, a factor analysis was conducted on a new self-rated Temperament Autoquestionnaire (Temperament Evaluation of Memphis, Pisa, Paris and San Diego-Autoquestionnaire (TEMPS-A)). MANOVA was used to examine overall associations between risky behaviors and temperament. Additionally, directed MANOVAs were conducted for each of six drugs of abuse (alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, opioids, other stimulants, and sedative hypnotics).

Results: Factor analysis confirmed the hypothesized temperament structure of five distinct factors: Cyclothymic, hyperthymic, anxious, irritable-explosive, and depressive. Heavy users of cocaine, other stimulants, and alcohol were more likely to have an irritable-explosive temperament. Interestingly, heavy users of opioids were more likely to show depressive and hyperthymic traits. The inclusion of HIV status as a predictor of temperament did not alter the results. Unlike a previous study, no direct significant relationships were found between risky sexual behaviors and specific temperaments.

Limitations: Relatively small sample size for a factor analytic study, and cross-sectional design, which cannot determine a cause and effect relationship.

Conclusions: We succeeded in studying and validating five distinct affective temperaments in a substance abuse population. Irritable-explosive, and to a lesser extent, depressive and hyperthymic traits, were associated with substance use, and may place individuals at risk for HIV infection via that mechanism. That current risky sexual practices were not directly linked to temperament may reflect modification in sexual behavior following the acquisition of HIV disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / complications
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Seropositivity / psychology*
  • HIV Seropositivity / transmission
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs* / classification
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temperament* / classification
  • Unsafe Sex / psychology


  • Illicit Drugs