Adolescence is a developmental period when teens are gaining a great deal of independence at the same time that their brain is still developing the capability to handle that independence. Research suggests that some of the reason that many risk behaviors peak during late adolescence (like alcohol and drug use, risky sexual behavior, and crime and delinquency) is because of differences between the reward and motivational systems in the brain that are supercharged at puberty and the self-control systems in the adolescent brain that are still developing into young adulthood. However, we still know very little about how to measure these systems, how they develop across adolescence, and most importantly what produces healthy versus unhealthy development in these important behavioral regulation systems.
Our research is focused on understanding how these self-control and reward and motivational systems can be measured in the lab and in the community, on how they develop across adolescence, how the environment might shape their development, and how their developmental patterns might be related to risk for substance use and other risky behaviors.
Some of our recent findings have shown:
1) Pre-adolescents and adolescents whose self-control is worsening across middle school are at highest risk for emotional problems, behavioral problems, and alcohol, marijuana and cigarette use.
2) Parenting seems to shape the development of rewards or motivational systems among preteens, and may shape other aspects of self-control by late adolescence.
3) Stress is related to temporary disruptions in emotional self-control, while emotional support from families seems to be protective against disruptions in behavioral self-control.
4.) Problems with self-control strengthen the effects of other risk factors, like emotional problems, on alcohol and drug problems.
References for this work:
King, K.M., Fleming, C.P., Monahan, K. & Catalano, R. (in press). Increases in self control and attention problems during middle school predict alcohol and marijuana use during high school. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.
Patock-Peckham, J.A.; King, K.M.; Morgan-Lopez, A.A.; Ulloa, E.C.; Filson-Moses, J.M. (in press). The Gender Specific Mediational Links Between Parenting Styles, Parental Monitoring, Impulsiveness, Drinking Control, and Alcohol-Related Problems. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
King, K.M., Lengua, L.J., & Monahan, K. (under review). Differentiating executive and motivational components of self-regulation: Differences in trajectories, predictors and adjustment.
King, K.M., Karyadi, K.A., Luk, J.W. & Patock-Peckham, J.A. (in press). Dispositions to rash action moderate the associations between concurrent drinking, depressive symptoms and alcohol problems during emerging adulthood.
Karyadi, K.A. & King, K.M. (under review). Positive urgency and negative emotions: Evidence for moderation on negative alcohol consequences.