Multidimensional impulsivity as a mediator of early life stress and alcohol dependence

Sci Rep. 2018 Mar 7;8(1):4104. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-22474-8.


Early life stress (ELS) leads to increased susceptibility to serious psychiatric problems such as alcohol dependence, but the mechanisms through which ELS affects alcohol dependence are unclear. We investigated the mediating role of multi-dimensional impulsivity in the associations between ELS and alcohol dependence. 330 male patients with alcohol dependence (mean age = 48.39) completed self-rating scales of ELS and several self-report measures of impulsivity as well as balloon analogue risk task (BART). After classifying different dimensions of impulsivity using factor analysis, structural equation modeling was conducted to test the mediation effects of impulsivity between ELS and alcohol dependence severity and social onset of hazardous drinking. Among the participants, 64.8%, 42.1% and 47.9% reported at least one episode of childhood maltreatment, sexual abuse and parental conflict, respectively. Response impulsivity-sensation seeking, reflection impulsivity and aggression partially mediated the association between ELS and severity of alcohol dependence (CFI = 0.902 and RMSEA = 0.079). Reflection impulsivity dimension partially mediated the association between ELS and social onset of hazardous drinking (CFI = 0.939, RMSEA = 0.091). These finding imply that stabilizing vulnerabilities such as reflection impulsivity via intervention programs that target young individuals with ELS may be helpful in delaying the onset of hazardous drinking and prevent alcohol dependence.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression*
  • Alcoholism / etiology
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*