Child Maltreatment, Impulsivity, and Alcohol Use in Young Adulthood
Methods: Data for the present study were collected from 268 young people aged 18-25 in the community (mean age=21.9 years; SD = 2.1 years; range 18-25). Slightly more than half were female (51.9%); 57.5% were enrolled in college; and the majority of participants were White (64.6%). Childhood emotional abuse was carefully evaluated using a computer-assisted self-interviewing (CASI) method of the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ; Bernstein et al., 1994; Fink et al., 1995). Using the community sample of young individuals, we performed structural equation modeling to investigate whether emotional abuse influences alcohol use through urgency and to determine pathways for these effects in a multivariate context. We also examined variations in these pathways by four different alcohol use outcomes including frequency of alcohol use, binge drinking, alcohol-related problems, and alcohol use disorders (AUD).
Results: In four separate models, we found that emotional abuse was related to the urgent personality trait, which in turn influenced all four types of alcohol use. A test of indirect effects of emotional abuse on alcohol use found that these relationships were partially mediated by urgency (β = .07 for binge drinking; β = .07 for alcohol-related problems; β = .08 for AUD), except for frequency of alcohol use (β= .03). All of our analyses controlled for common risk factors for urgency and alcohol use, including other types of childhood maltreatment (i.e., neglect, physical and sexual abuse), psychological distress, parental alcoholism, and peer alcohol use.
Implications: Personality trait of urgency may play a significant role in linking childhood emotional abuse to alcohol use in young adulthood. We found that urgent personality trait would be a potentially useful target to prevent problematic alcohol use among young people who have had exposure to emotional abuse.