Posted on July 24, 2012

Disinhibition/Drinking Differences Between African-American and European-American Youth

Science Codex, July 23, 2012

Compared to European American adolescents, African American adolescents are more likely to abstain from alcohol, drink less frequently, and engage in less heavy drinking when they do drink. Very little research has examined racial differences in disinhibition. A study of changes in impulsivity and sensation seeking from childhood into adolescence has found that European American youth have higher levels of sensation seeking while African American youth have higher levels of impulsivity.

Results will be published in the October 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

“Very little research has examined why African American adolescents drink less alcohol than European American adolescents,” said Sarah L. Pedersen, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and corresponding author for the study. “However, studies have shown that the African American culture may hold more conservative views about drinking compared to the majority culture in the United States. For example, African American adolescents may feel that their parents and friends disapprove of their drinking more than their European American counterparts.”


“Our study highlights the different developmental course of two related constructs: impulsivity and sensation,” said Pedersen. “It is really interesting to see that sensation seeking increased over time while impulsivity, from the mothers’ reports, decreased. In general, European Americans had higher levels of sensation seeking at every assessment point, and they also had sharper increases in sensation seeking over time compared to African Americans. On the other hand, African Americans had higher levels of impulsivity — both child- and mother-reported — at the majority of assessments, but the rate of change did not differ across groups over time.”


“Until recently, alcohol researchers would focus primarily on ‘impulsivity’ as a general trait-like construct,” observed Pedersen. “This study looks at two aspects of disinhibition and found that it is not necessarily just mean level of the construct but individual differences in change in these personality constructs that is related to alcohol use. Also, very little research has examined racial differences in disinhibited personality characteristics, which have been widely studied as predictors of alcohol use in predominantly European American samples.”


Source: Disinhibition/drinking differences between African-American and European-American youth