Impulsivity Over Time Decreases Along With Substance Use

Impulses can make us do interesting things. Sometimes they make us want to buy things we don’t need, while at others it will lead us into decisions that are not in our best interest in the long run. Research into this field indicates that impulsive behavior traits will normally decline during early adulthood.

According to a recent Science Daily release, these decreases are generally associated with reduced substances use. A recent study of changes in impulsivity over time and the association with problem alcohol use reveals that 18-to-25 year olds exhibit the largest decline in impulsive behavior and the most significant drops in alcohol use.

"Traits related to impulsivity, such as undirectedness or ‘reverse-scored conscientiousness,’ tend to normally decrease from late adolescence into early adulthood, approximately from ages 18 to 35," explained Andrew K. Littlefield, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Missouri and corresponding author for the study in the Science Daily.

Littlefield highlighted that they used a person-centered trajectory in this study to identify individual differences in impulsivity as the participants got older. With this approach, researchers were able to empirically discover those who showed similar stability and change in impulsive behavior between the ages of 18 and 35.

In a study of data collected from 489 college students, researchers determined there were important differences in both initial impulsive behavior patterns and changes in those patterns from ages 18 to 35. Their findings suggest that impulsive behavior shows the most significant decline between he ages of 18 and 35. They also noted that the sharpest decreases in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems occurred between the ages of 18 and 25.

"Many researchers and clinicians think of personality as an incredibly stable construct that does not change across time, however, these findings provide clear evidence that at least some individuals undergo significant changes in impulsivity across time," Littlefield said.

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