Impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and part-time job status in relation to substance use and gambling in adolescents

J Adolesc Health. 2014 Apr;54(4):460-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.09.014. Epub 2013 Nov 19.


Purpose: Although impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and part-time employment have each been linked to risky behaviors in adolescents, their inter-relationships are less well-understood. We examined data from adolescents to assess the following predictions: (1) sensation-seeking would relate closely to substance use and gambling; (2) impulsivity would relate closely to alcohol, drug, and gambling problems; and (3) these relationships would be particularly strong among those holding part-time jobs.

Method: High-school students (N = 3,106) were surveyed to provide data on impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and part-time job status. Bivariate and logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine relationships with gambling, substance use (i.e., alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana) and related problems.

Results: Both impulsivity and sensation-seeking related significantly to substance use and impulsivity to gambling. Impulsivity had stronger associations with drug and gambling problems than sensation-seeking did. Students with paid part-time jobs were more likely to drink alcohol, binge drink, and use marijuana. Sensation-seeking had a particularly strong relationship to heavy cigarette smoking among students with part-time jobs. Conversely, there was little relationship between part-time job status and smoking among low sensation-seekers.

Conclusions: These findings further support the relevance of sensation-seeking, impulsivity, and part-time job status to risky behaviors among adolescents. Sensation-seeking and impulsivity had unique relationships to risky behaviors, in accordance with theory and prior evidence. Impulsive adolescents may be in particular need for interventions to reduce drug use and gambling. Although part-time jobs can be beneficial, parents and caregivers should be mindful of potential negative ramifications of paid work outside the home.

Keywords: Alcohol; Cannabis; Cigarette; Employment; Gender; High school; Marijuana; Personality; Problems; Smoking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior* / psychology
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Binge Drinking
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Gambling*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Smoking*