The Externalizing and Internalizing Pathways to Marijuana Use Initiation: Examining the Synergistic Effects of Impulsiveness and Sensation Seeking

Alexander M. Wasserman, K. J. Shaw-Meadow, T. J. Moon, T. E. Karns-Wright, C. W. Mathias, N. Hill-Kapturczak, D. M. Dougherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Adolescent marijuana use has become increasingly more problematic compared with the past; thus, understanding developmental processes that increase the liability of marijuana use is essential. Two developmental pathways to adolescent substance use have been proposed: an externalizing pathway that emphasizes the expression of aggressive and delinquent behavior, and an internalizing pathway that emphasizes the role of depressive symptoms and negative affect. In this study, we aimed to examine the synergistic role of impulsiveness and sensation seeking in the two risk pathways to determine whether both high and low levels of the traits are risk factors for marijuana use. Our study included 343 adolescents (52% were girls, 78% identified as Hispanic) that oversampled high-risk youth (78% had a family history of substance use disorder), assessed biannually between the ages of 13–16 years old. Moderated mediation analyses revealed that high levels of sensation seeking indirectly predicted marijuana use through higher mean levels of externalizing behavior. The positive relationship between sensation seeking and externalizing behavior was only significant at high levels of impulsiveness. Conversely, low levels of sensation seeking indirectly predicted marijuana use through higher mean levels of internalizing behavior. The negative relationship between sensation seeking and internalizing behavior was only significant at low levels of impulsiveness. Collectively, these results demonstrate that high and low levels of both impulsiveness and sensation seeking confer increased risk of marijuana use, albeit through different mechanisms

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2250-2264
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Volume57
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Externalizing behavior
  • Impulsivity
  • Internalizing behavior
  • Marijuana use
  • Sensation seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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