Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 368–380 | Cite as

Adolescent Substance Use & Psychopathology: Interactive Effects of Cortisol Reactivity and Emotion Regulation

  • Jennifer A. Poon
  • Caitlin C. Turpyn
  • Amysue Hansen
  • Juliana Jacangelo
  • Tara M. Chaplin
Original Article


How are emotional processes associated with the increased rates of substance use and psychological disorders commonly observed during adolescence? An index of emotion-related physiological arousal—cortisol reactivity—and subjective emotion regulation have both been independently linked to substance use and psychological difficulties among youth. The current study (N = 134 adolescents) sought to elucidate the interactive effects of cortisol reactivity following a stressful parent–child interaction task and self-reported emotion regulation ability on adolescents’ substance use and externalizing and internalizing behavior problems. Results revealed that adolescents with low levels of cortisol reactivity and high emotion regulation difficulties were more likely to use substances, and also had the highest parent-reported symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder. With respect to internalizing symptoms, high emotion-related physiological reactivity coupled with high emotion regulation difficulties were associated with higher self-reported major depression symptoms among youth. Findings reveal that different profiles of HPA axis arousal and emotion regulation are associated with substance use and symptoms of psychopathology among adolescents.


Adolescence Emotion regulation Emotional arousal Emotional reactivity Cortisol Substance use Externalizing Internalizing 



This work was carried out by a National Institute on Drug Abuse grant awarded to the fifth author (R01- DA033431). Please note that the content presented does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and that the funding sources had no other role other than financial support.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Jennifer A. Poon, Caitlin C. Turpyn, Amysue Hansen, Juliana Jacangelo and Tara M. Chaplin declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Review Boards at Yale University and George Mason University. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in the study.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Youth Emotion Lab, Department of PsychologyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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