Does adolescent risk taking imply weak executive function? A prospective study of relations between working performance, impulsivity, and risk taking in early adolescents

Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3806, USA.
Developmental Science (Impact Factor: 3.89). 09/2011; 14(5):1119-33. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2011.01061.x
Source: PubMed


Studies of brain development suggest that the increase in risk taking observed during adolescence may be due to insufficient prefrontal executive function compared to a more rapidly developing subcortical motivation system. We examined executive function as assessed by working memory ability in a community sample of youth (n = 387, ages 10 to 12 at baseline) in three annual assessments to determine its relation to two forms of impulsivity (sensation seeking and acting without thinking) and a wide range of risk and externalizing behavior. Using structural equation modeling, we tested a model in which differential activation of the dorsal and ventral striatum produces imbalance in the function of these brain regions. For youth high in sensation seeking, both regions were predicted to develop with age. However, for youth high in the tendency to act without thinking, the ventral striatum was expected to dominate. The model predicted that working memory ability would exhibit (1) early weakness in youth high in acting without thinking but (2) growing strength in those high in sensation seeking. In addition, it predicted that (3) acting without thinking would be more strongly related to risk and externalizing behavior than sensation seeking. Finally, it predicted that (4) controlling for acting without thinking, sensation seeking would predict later increases in risky and externalizing behavior. All four of these predictions were confirmed. The results indicate that the rise in sensation seeking that occurs during adolescence is not accompanied by a deficit in executive function and therefore requires different intervention strategies from those for youth whose impulsivity is characterized by early signs of acting without thinking.

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    • "Physical and mental health is affected by a complex interplay of individual and social factors at personal , family , community , and national levels ( Viner et al . , 2012 ), as well as by individual differences in cognitive abilities ( e . g . , Romer et al . , 2011 ) , attachment history ( Bowlby , 1988 ) , and personality traits . As we are discussing throughout this paper , all these factors undergo dramatic modifications during adolescence that tend to slow down and stabilize as the individual becomes an adult—better yet , that adultness begins when these factors begin to slow down and stabiliz"
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    ABSTRACT: There are several reasons why adolescence is interesting. It is in this phase that an individual finds herself fully facing the external world: basically equipped with the kind of social cognition that s/he has acquired at home, at school and through the media during childhood, s/he has now to meet a host of other, diverse views of what " reasonable, " " appropriate, " or " expected " courses of thought and emotions are, in the wild with friends and peers, romantic or sexual partners, teachers and employers, and the society at large. Furthermore, she is also expected, both at home and in the external world, to have a wholly new degree of control over such courses. While the idea that the development of social cognition still progresses after infancy (and possibly throughout the life span) is clearly gaining consensus in the field, the literature building on it is still scarce. One of the reasons for this probably is that most tests used to study it focus on its basic component, namely theory of mind, and have been mostly devised for us with children; therefore, they are not suitable to deal with the hugely increasing complexity of social and mental life during adolescence and adulthood. Starting from a review of the literature available, we will argue that the development of social cognition should be viewed as a largely yet-to-be-understood mix of biological and cultural factors. While it is widely agreed upon that the very initial manifestations of social life in the newborn are largely driven by an innate engine with which all humans are equally endowed, it is also evident that each culture, and each individual within it, develops specific adult versions of social cognition.
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies analysing personality and cannabis use in adult samples suggest that cannabis users show significant higher levels of impulsivity, sensation seeking and schizotypy. However, there are few studies exploring this relationship in adolescence using psychobiological models of personality. Given the relevance of identifying individual differences that lead adolescents to early cannabis use to prevent future health problems, the present study aimed to explore the relationship between age, sex, personality and early cannabis use using a psychobiological model of personality in a sample of 415 students (51.8% boys) from 12 to 18 years. Chi(2) tests showed significant higher prevalence of cannabis use in boys and in the group aged 15-18 years. Multiple analysis of variance showed significant higher scores in psychoticism, sensation seeking and in all its subscales in cannabis users group, while an interaction with age was found for extraversion and neuroticism: cannabis users scored higher than non-users in the youngest group (12-14 years) but lower in the oldest group in both dimensions. Finally, regression analysis showed that narrower traits of sensation seeking (experience seeking and disinhibition) were the most associated to early cannabis use. Results are discussed in terms of early cannabis users' personality profiles and in terms of the self-medication theory. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Masson SAS.
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    • "Adolescence represents a critical period for brain development. Age-related changes include alterations in sensitivity to salient stimuli, addressed by neurodevelopmental models to enhanced frontal, subcortical-limbic, and striatal activation, a pattern associated with the rise of impulsivity (IMP) and deficits in inhibitory control (IC; Romer et al., 2009), marking the risk for psychopathology and maladaptive behaviors. "
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