Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Michael C. Stallings

Second Advisor

Naomi P. Friedman

Third Advisor

John K. Hewitt

Fourth Advisor

Matthew B. McQueen

Fifth Advisor

Yuko Munakata


Prior studies suggest there are common genetic vulnerabilities underlying antisocial behavior and substance use disorders, which are often comorbid. It has been proposed that cognitive and personality factors related to behavioral disinhibition may explain some of the association between these behaviors. This dissertation uses adolescent twins from the Colorado Center for Antisocial Drug Dependence (CADD) to investigate (a) whether behavioral disinhibition and factors common and specific to executive functions share genetic influences, and (b) how genetic relations change with specific stages of substance use. Then, a subset of items from the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ) is examined for its usefulness in predicting antisocial behavior and substance use problems.

In the first two studies, latent constructs reflected variance shared among either executive function tasks or behavioral disinhibition measures. A set of updating tasks and a set of shifting tasks were each represented by latent factors. All three types of tasks (updating, shifting, and inhibiting) loaded on a third executive function factor. The behavioral disinhibition factor included conduct disorder, substance use or dependence vulnerability, and the TPQ novelty seeking dimension. The first study showed that genetic influences on the common executive function factor were more highly correlated with genetic influences on behavioral disinhibition when substance use, rather than dependence vulnerability, was included in the model. Results from the second study indicated a higher proportion of shared genetic influences between the common executive function factor and age-of-onset than between executive functioning and later problem-use stages. The final study identified a set of TPQ items that reflected disinhibitory personality. Although the new measure predicted antisocial behavior and substance use disorders, it did not show significant improvement over the original novelty seeking dimension commonly used in studies of behavioral disinhibition. Implications for these findings are discussed.