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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2002 Dec;41(12):1495-502.

Sensation seeking, puberty, and nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana use in adolescence.

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Department of Psychiatry, Behavioral Science, and Pediatrics, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington 40509, USA.



To examine the relationship among nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana use; level of sensation seeking (SS); and pubertal development.


Subjects were early and middle adolescent males and females recruited from a psychiatric clinic (n = 77) and two general pediatric clinics (n = 131). SS was measured by using the Sensation Seeking Scale for Children. Pubertal development was measured with a modified Pubertal Development Scale that was completed by the adolescent and his/her parent about the adolescent. Adolescent self-reports of nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana use were also obtained using questionnaires.


SS was higher in males and females who reported nicotine and alcohol use and in males who reported marijuana use. SS was positively associated with pubertal development in males and females, even when controlling for age. Furthermore, SS mediated the relationship of pubertal development and drug use in males and females.


The observation that SS mediates the relationship between pubertal development and drug use in males and females may contribute to understanding changes in drug use that are seen during adolescence. In addition, SS is associated with drug use and is easily measured in a variety of clinical settings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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