The effect of sensation seeking on alcohol use among middle school students: a latent state-trait analysis

Christopher Cappelli*, James Russell Pike, Georgia Christodoulou, Nathaniel R. Riggs, Christopher M. Warren, Mary Ann Pentz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Sensation seeking has been implicated as a major risk factor for underage alcohol use, however little research into this personality trait has been conducted among children. Objective: The current study examined if sensation seeking presents as a state or trait in children, and if the state or trait predicted future alcohol use. Methods: A latent state-trait (LST) analysis was conducted among 552 individuals (54.3% female; age range 8–13; mean age 9.3) to determine the state or trait-based aspects of sensation seeking, and if this state or trait predicted future alcohol use. Sensation seeking behavior and lifetime alcohol use were assessed at four time points using two previously validated measures. Results: Between 49.4% and 95.3% of individual differences in sensation seeking could be attributed to a stable underlying sensation seeking trait. Further, logistic regression of the stable trait of sensation seeking predicted future alcohol use. A one unit increase in the latent trait increased the odds a student would try alcohol by 7.83 times (95% CI = 1.49–41.11, p =.015). Standardized regression coefficients revealed that an increase of one standard deviation in the latent trait of sensation seeking increased the odds of experimentation with alcohol by 1.29 times (95% CI = 1.11–1.49, p =.001). Conclusion: Findings suggest sensation seeking presents as a stable trait during childhood, which can cause children to seek out a novel or exciting behaviors such as alcohol use. Future substance use interventions may need to account for the influence of the underlying trait.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-324
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 3 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Latent state-trait analysis
  • childhood
  • early adolescence
  • sensation seeking
  • underage alcohol use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of sensation seeking on alcohol use among middle school students: a latent state-trait analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this