Impulsivity-related personality traits and adolescent alcohol use: a meta-analytic review

Clin Psychol Rev. 2013 Jun;33(4):574-92. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.03.003. Epub 2013 Mar 18.


Heightened impulsivity has been identified as a risk marker for excessive and problematic alcohol use, particularly during adolescence when impulsive behaviour is elevated and alcohol use is often initiated. Recent advances in personality theory indicate that impulsivity comprises several discrete traits which may influence alcohol use through different pathways. This review used meta-analysis to assess the degree to which the impulsivity-related traits of lack of premeditation, lack of perseverance, sensation seeking, negative urgency, positive urgency, and reward sensitivity are associated with alcohol consumption and problematic alcohol use in adolescent samples. All traits were positively associated with both alcohol outcomes. Sensation seeking and positive urgency showed the largest associations with alcohol consumption. Positive and negative urgency showed the largest associations with problematic alcohol use, although this was limited to older adolescent samples. A number of demographic and methodological variables were assessed as potential moderators of these associations. Results indicate that excessive alcohol consumption during adolescence may be driven in part by the desire to seek novel and exciting experiences. Problematic use, specifically amongst older adolescents, may be a consequence of a tendency to act rashly when in a heightened positive or negative mood.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Affect
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Binge Drinking / psychology
  • Effect Modifier, Epidemiologic
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Personality*
  • Regression Analysis