Early onset of alcohol use and persistent use of alcohol during adolescence have been associated with later problem behavior, such as heavy drinking and the use of other substances. Several personality characteristics have been related to the onset and persistent use of alcohol during adolescence. In the present study, we examined the relationship between personality and different high-risk trajectories of alcohol use in adolescents.

Participants were 374 8th graders (330 boys; Mage = 13.6 years) from 17 different secondary special education schools (i.e., for adolescents with externalizing behavioral problems) in the Netherlands. Adolescents were followed for 2 years (i.e., four waves), and alcohol use and personality characteristics (Substance Use Risk Profile Scale) were assessed.

Using latent transition analysis, three trajectories of alcohol use were identified—a nondrinking group (reference group), an onset group (after Time 1), and an early-onset (before Time 1) persistent-drinking group. Baseline high sensation seeking predicted group membership in the onset group (odds ratio [OR] = 2.55) and the early-onset persistent-drinking group (OR = 3.57). Baseline low anxiety sensitivity predicted group membership in the early-onset persistent-drinking group (OR = 0.42). Particularly in this latter group, high prevalence rates of illegal substance use (i.e., cannabis, Ecstasy [3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine; MDMA], and cocaine) were found 2 years later.

High sensation seeking and low anxiety sensitivity appear to be important predictors of the early onset of adolescents’ alcohol use. Moreover, a combination of early onset and persistent alcohol use demonstrates a heightened risk for the use of other illegal substances in adolescence. Implications for interventions are discussed.

Peeters, M., Monshouwer, K., Van de Schoot, R., Janssen, T., Vollebergh, W. A. M., & Wiers, R. W. (2015). Personality and the Prediction of High-Risk Trajectories of Alcohol Use During Adolescence. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 75(5), 790-798. http://dx.doi.org/10.15288/jsad.2014.75.790