Common and Distinct Associations Between Aggression and Alcohol Problems with Trait Disinhibition

  • Robert D. Latzman
  • Jatin G. Vaidya


Disinhibition (vs. Constraint; DvC) represents the tendency to act in an undercontrolled (vs. controlled) manner and has been shown to be strongly linked to externalizing psychopathology. Further, recent research has found lower-order DvC components to have distinct patterns of associations with important externalizing-related outcomes, suggesting that although DvC represents a general diathesis to externalizing behaviors, lower order components likely present more specific risks for particular behaviors. To further characterize the association between components of DvC and externalizing behaviors, the current study aimed to expand upon these recent findings by examining common and distinct associations between components of DvC and aggression and alcohol problems within a large, diverse sample of undergraduates (N = 933; 36.8 % Black/African-American, 34.3 % White, 14.6 % Asian/Asian-American). Results of structural equation modeling analyses revealed that low Agreeableness and low Self-Control/Premeditation evidenced distinct patterns of associations with externalizing outcomes. Although low Agreeableness and low Self-Control/Premeditation were both associated with all externalizing outcomes, low Agreeableness was most strongly associated with Proactive Aggression whereas low Self-Control/Premeditation was most strongly associated with Reactive Aggression and alcohol problems. These associations did not vary by either race (White vs. African-American) or gender. Further, the three DvC components significantly interacted with one another in explaining these externalizing outcomes. Taken together, these findings suggest both common and distinct associations between DvC and externalizing behaviors that are generalizable to both White and African-American, as well as both male and female, participants. The current study therefore confirms the importance of focusing on lower-order DvC components in future research in service of further explicating differential DvC-related etiological mechanisms associated with various phenotypic expressions of the externalizing spectrum of behavior.


Aggression Alcohol problems Disinhibition Proactive Aggression Reactive Aggression 



Special thanks to Scott Lilienfeld for his helpful comments on an eariler draft of this manuscript and to Taralee Hamner for assistance with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Iowa Hospitals and ClinicsIowa CityUSA

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