The moderating effects of cannabis use and decision making on the relationship between conduct disorder and risky sexual behavior

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2015;37(3):303-15. doi: 10.1080/13803395.2015.1010489. Epub 2015 Apr 1.


Risky sexual behavior (RSB) is a current public health concern affecting adolescents and young adults. Conduct disorder, cannabis use, and decision-making (DM) ability are interrelated constructs that are relevant to RSB; however, there is little research on the association of DM and RSB. Participants were 79 cannabis users assessed through self-report measures of RSB and mental health and a timeline follow-back procedure for substance use. DM ability was assessed via the Iowa Gambling Task. We found that more conduct disorder symptoms accounted for unique variance in measures of overall RSB and an earlier initiation of oral sex, even when taking into account DM and cannabis use. Amount of cannabis use and DM ability moderated the relationships between number of conduct disorder symptoms and number of oral sex partners and age of initiation for vaginal sex. An increase in conduct disorder symptoms was associated with more oral sex partners when DM was poor and fewer partners when DM was better; however, this relationship was only present at higher levels of cannabis use. Furthermore, when DM was poor, more conduct disorder symptoms predicted a younger age of initiation of vaginal sex, with the age decreasing as amount of cannabis use increased. Determining how DM influences RSB may assist in the identification of novel treatment approaches to reduce engagement in RSB.

Keywords: Cannabis; Conduct disorder; Decision making; Risky sexual behavior.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Conduct Disorder / psychology*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Self Report
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Young Adult