Sleep, impulse control, and sensation-seeking predict delinquent behavior in adolescents, emerging adults, and adults

J Adolesc Health. 2013 Aug;53(2):293-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.03.012. Epub 2013 May 11.


Purpose: The present study examined delinquent behavior from adolescence into adulthood within the dual systems model of adolescent risk-taking, which identifies maturational patterns of socioemotional and cognitive control systems as predictors of risk-taking. The role of sleep was also investigated within the relationship.

Methods: Hierarchical regression and path analysis examined delinquency at three waves (1996, 2001, and 2008) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

Results: Impulse control and sensation-seeking predicted concurrent delinquent behavior at all three waves, demonstrating the developmental shift as described within the dual systems model in which the relative contribution of sensation-seeking decreases from adolescence into adulthood, whereas the relative contribution of impulse control improves. Data also revealed that sleep duration and delayed bedtimes had both direct and indirect associations with delinquent behavior during adolescence; sleep duration did not directly predict such activity during later waves.

Conclusion: The dual systems model of adolescent risk-taking appears to be predictive of delinquent behavior during adolescence and the transition into adulthood. Preliminary findings suggest the importance of considering both adolescent sleep and cognitive and socioemotional development during research and prevention efforts of delinquent behavior.

Keywords: Adolescence; Delinquency; Dual systems model; Emerging adulthood; Impulse control; Sensation-seeking; Sleep.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Depression / psychology
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sensation
  • Sleep*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States