The role of urgency in maladaptive behaviors

Behav Res Ther. 2007 Dec;45(12):3018-29. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2007.08.012. Epub 2007 Sep 6.


Prior work on maladaptive behaviors has cited impulsivity as a risk factor. The concept of impulsivity, however, fails to address the potential role of negative affect in such behaviors. The UPPS Impulsive Behavior Scale addresses this weakness by dividing impulsivity into four subscales: Urgency, Sensation Seeking, (lack of) Premeditation, and (lack of) Perseverance. We predicted that urgency, defined as the tendency, specifically in the face of negative affect, to act quickly and without planning, would predict elevations on three maladaptive behaviors--excessive reassurance seeking, drinking to cope, and bulimic symptoms as measured by the Eating Disorder Inventory--in both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses in an undergraduate sample (N=70). Participants were assessed at two time points, 3-4 weeks apart. Urgency significantly predicted all three outcome variables cross-sectionally at both Time 1 and Time 2. Time 1 urgency significantly predicted Time 2 excessive reassurance seeking. Changes in urgency from Time 1 to Time 2 predicted changes in all three outcome variables. Results indicate a clear cross-sectional relationship between urgency and certain maladaptive behaviors. Additionally, some form of longitudinal relationship may exist between these variables, although the use of residual change scores precluded distinction between true change and change due to error.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Bulimia / psychology*
  • Codependency, Psychological*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Internal-External Control
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged