Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type



Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Kent Hutchison


Research suggests that among high-risk adolescents there is a strong relationship between substance use and having committed an offense. Further, adolescents with impulsive personality characteristics are more likely to use or abuse alcohol and other substances than their less impulsive peers. Therefore, impulsivity may be one potential mediator in the relationship between adolescent alcohol use and externalizing disorders such as conduct disorder, which increases the likelihood of committing an offense large enough to end up in a juvenile detention facility. Using a subset of data collected from a larger longitudinal study, this study utilized behavioral and neuroimaging data to examine the relationship between substance use, impulsivity, and committing an offense among a population of adolescent offenders. Participants (n=225), were between the ages of 14-18 years and were recruited from the Youth Reporting Center (YRC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Impulsivity was significantly correlated with having committed an offense (r = .176, p < .01), and was also correlated with, alcohol use (r = .167, p < .01), alcohol related problems (r = .289, p < .01), and alcohol dependence (r = .213, p < .01). Contrary to previous research findings, none of the alcohol measures were significantly correlated with committing an offense. The orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, nucleus accumbens, and cerebellum volumes were also not correlated with impulsivity or having committed an offense. Although results were not in line with hypotheses, they do offer insight into the complex relationship between adolescent substance use and personality characteristics.