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Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2015 Jun;46(3):466-73. doi: 10.1007/s10578-014-0486-y.

Sensation seeking predicting growth in adolescent problem behaviors.

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Department of Medical Social Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, 625 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 2700, Chicago, IL, 60611, USA.


There is limited literature on the relationship between sensation seeking and adolescent risk behaviors, particularly among African Americans. We tested the association between psychometrically-derived subscales of the Zuckerman Sensation Seeking Scale and the intercepts and slopes of individual growth curves of conduct problems, sexual risk taking, and substance use from ages 13 to 18 years by sex. Boys and girls had different associations between sensation seeking and baseline levels and growth of risk behaviors. The Pleasure Seeking scale was associated with baseline levels of conduct problems in boys and girls, baseline substance use in boys, and growth in sexual risk taking and substance use by girls. Girls had the same pattern of associations with the Danger/Novelty scale as the Pleasure Seeking scale. Knowledge about the relationships between adolescent risk taking and sensation seeking can help in the targeted design of prevention and intervention programs for the understudied population of very low-income, African American adolescents.

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