Childhood maltreatment is an important risk factor for problems with alcohol and other drugs such as cannabis. Although this link has been well established, the mechanisms in this association require further study. High levels of impulsivity and difficulties with emotion regulation are often associated with childhood maltreatment. Negative urgency – an emotion-based facet of impulsivity – is a strong predictor of substance use problems and may be a particularly relevant facet of impulsivity in the link between childhood maltreatment and alcohol and cannabis outcomes. However, few studies have examined the specific mediational pathway from childhood maltreatment to alcohol and cannabis problems through negative urgency.
We tested the hypothesis that the associations between history of childhood maltreatment and current alcohol and cannabis problems would be mediated by negative urgency, but not other facets of impulsivity.
Participants (N = 232), who were in late adolescence (mean age = 19.75), completed self-report measures of different facets of impulsivity, past childhood maltreatment, and current alcohol and cannabis use and problems.
In analyses including several facets of impulsivity as simultaneous mediators, negative urgency was the only facet to mediate the associations of childhood maltreatment severity with alcohol and cannabis problems.
These findings provide support for negative urgency as a unique mediator of the associations between childhood maltreatment and both alcohol and cannabis problems, suggesting that future work on mechanisms in these associations should focus on mood-based impulsivity.