Do executive and reactive disinhibition mediate the effects of familial substance use disorders on adolescent externalizing outcomes?

J Abnorm Psychol. 2011 Aug;120(3):528-42. doi: 10.1037/a0024162.


The present study examined the potential mediating roles of executive and reactive disinhibition in predicting conduct problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, and substance use among adolescents with and without a family history of substance use disorders. Using data from 247 high-risk adolescents, parents, and grandparents, structural equation modeling indicated that reactive disinhibition, as measured by sensation seeking, mediated the effect of familial drug use disorders on all facets of the adolescent externalizing spectrum. Executive disinhibition, as measured by response disinhibition, spatial short term memory, and "trait" impulsivity, was associated with ADHD symptoms. Moreover, although executive functioning weakness were unrelated to familial substance use disorders, adolescents with familial alcohol use disorders were at risk for "trait" impulsivity marked by a lack of planning. These results illustrate the importance of "unpacking" the broad temperament style of disinhibition and of studying the processes that underlie the commonality among facets of the externalizing spectrum and processes that predict specific externalizing outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Conduct Disorder / diagnosis
  • Conduct Disorder / psychology
  • Executive Function*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Models, Psychological
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Temperament