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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2018 May 1;186:193-200. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.01.031. Epub 2018 Mar 26.

Sensation seeking moderates television's cultivation of alcohol and tobacco beliefs: Evidence from a national study of French adolescents.

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Department of Marketing, Kogod School of Business, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20016, USA. Electronic address:
F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University, 4301 Jones Bridge Road, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA.



Television (TV) is a key socialization agent, especially amongst youth. According to cultivation theory, youth heavily exposed to TV content, where positive images of smoking and drinking abound, should hold more positive beliefs concerning drinking and smoking outcomes. This research investigates the role of the sensation-seeking personality trait in moderating this TV cultivation effect.


A French national research company contacted its panel members with children aged 13-17. Parents completed a short survey and were asked for consent for their child to participate in a study. The children were then contacted, informed, and asked for assent. Assenters completed a survey that included measures of TV exposure, personality traits, drinking and smoking behaviors, and beliefs about the outcomes associated with drinking and smoking (expectancies). Parental drinking, smoking, and strictness were included as controls.


Survey data from 1040 adolescents (54.2% males) and their parents reveal that the relationship between cumulative TV exposure and drinking and smoking behavior, mediated through expectancies, is strongest amongst high sensation seeking adolescents. The moderated mediation analysis shows that sensation seeking trait moderates the relationship between TV exposure and the beliefs adolescents hold about the consequences of alcohol and tobacco use, which themselves are related to greater likelihood to engage in substance use.


Key personality traits and TV exposure levels must be accounted for to identify youth at risk of using substances at a time when many lifelong maladaptive behaviors and beliefs form.


Adolescence; Cultivation effect; Sensation seeking; Substance use; Television

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