Temperament and externalizing behavior as mediators of genetic risk on adolescent substance use

Elisa M. Trucco, Brian M. Hicks, Sandra Villafuerte, Joel T. Nigg, Margit Burmeister, Robert A. Zucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Understanding how specific genes contribute to risk for addiction remains challenging. This study tests whether childhood temperament and externalizing behavior in early adolescence account for a portion of the association between specific genetic variants and substance use problems in late adolescence. The sample consisted of 487 adolescents from the Michigan Longitudinal Study, a high-risk sample (70.2% male, 81.7% European American ancestry). Polymorphisms across serotonergic (SLC6A4, 5-HTTLPR), dopaminergic (DRD4, u-VNTR), noradrenergic (SLC6A2, rs36021), and GABAergic (GABRA2, rs279858; GABRA6, rs3811995) genes were examined given prior support for associations with temperament, externalizing behavior, and substance use problems. The temperament traits behavioral control and resiliency were assessed using interviewer ratings (ages 9-11), and externalizing behavior (ages 12-14) was assessed using teacher ratings. Self-reported substance use outcomes (ages 15-17) included maximum alcoholic beverages consumed in 24 hours, and frequency of past year cigarette and marijuana use. Behavioral control, resiliency, and externalizing behavior accounted for the associations between polymorphisms in noradrenergic and GABAergic genes and substance use in late adolescence. Individual differences in emotional coping and behavioral regulation represent nonspecific neurobiological underpinnings for an externalizing pathway to addiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-575
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'Temperament and externalizing behavior as mediators of genetic risk on adolescent substance use'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this