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Effects of Personality Traits on Predicting Substance Dependence in University Students


Stephen R. Adams

A dissertation submitted to the Graduate Faculty of
Auburn University

in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the Degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Auburn, Alabama
August 3, 2013

Keywords: personality traits, substance dependence, psychoticism, extraversion,
neuroticism, lying, undergraduate students

Copyright 2013 by Stephen R. Adams

Approved by

E. Davis Martin, Jr., Chair, Wayne T. Smith Distinguished Professor and Department Head,
Special Education, Rehabilitation, and Counseling

Marie Kraska, Mildred Cheshire Fraley Distinguished Professor, Educational Foundations,
Leadership, and Technology

Rebecca S. Curtis, Associate Professor, Special Education, Rehabilitation, and Counseling

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College students who do not successfully complete undergraduate studies by obtaining

degrees have much lower average lifetime earnings than college students who do

Research suggests that one of the primary reasons for students

dropping out or flunking out of undergraduate school is excessive substance use. This study

used logistic regression analysis to determine the extent to which individual undergraduate

neuroticism may predict probability of having a substance dependence disorder. A fourth

e score on the same assessment. This study sought to

determine how well the model classified cases for which the outcome was unknown, and to

identify bivariate correlations among the four predictor variables. The results of this study

revealed that of the four predictor variables, only extraversion was a statistically significant

predictor of high probability of having a substance dependence disorder. The correct

classification of 73% of cases affirmed that overall, the model was effective at classifying cases

into one group or the other for which the outcome was unknown when all four predictor

variables were included simultaneously. An unexpected bivariate correlation revealed in this

study was that moderate, negative coefficients were identified for the correlation between

psychoticism and lying.

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p. nking,

unusual perceptual experiences including bodily illusions, odd thinking and speech,

suspiciousness or paranoid ideation, inappropriate or constricted affect, behavior that is odd,

eccentric or peculiar, and excessive social anxiety that does not diminish with familiarity and

Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 645).

Several studies have linked chronic cannabis use among the general public and among

college and university students specifically to schizotypal personality traits. Fridberg, Vollmer,

and Skosnik (2011) conducted a study to measure the relationship between normal

personality, schizotypal personality, and cannabis use. Fridberg, et al. (2011) found that chronic

cannabis users have significantly more schizotypal personality traits than do people who do not

use cannabis. The Fridberg, et al. (2011) study provided additional evidence to the literature that

cannabis use and schizotypy are connected.

Additional Considerations

Substance use disorders are significantly connected to Axis II personality disorders, and

related to childhood adversity (Afifi, et al., 2011). This is evidence that the combination not only

negatively affects individuals with such comorbidity, but that the collateral damage is significant

for others, including children and adolescents in families of individuals with such comorbidity.

One study which addressed the effect on children examined associations connected to multiple

aspects of parental psychopathology. Harvey, Stoessel, and Herbert (2011) found that excessive

substance use and various specific personality traits were related to maternal negativity,

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fathers, Harvey, Stoessel, and Herbert (2011) found that the same symptoms, as well as avoidant

and dependent traits and excessive substance use were significantly connected to poor parenting.

The study included 182 mothers and 126 fathers of children with behavioral problems. The

results suggest that personality disorder symptoms figure prominently in chological

states and substance use, and influence parental practices.

To conclude the literature review, it is important to consider other studies which document

the connection or lack thereof between substance dependence and personality disorders in

general or collectively. To this point, Hopwood, et al. (2011) noted that personality disorders

may furnish latent risk factors for substance dependence. Hopwood, et al. (2011) compared

Schedule for Nonadaptive and Adaptive Personality (SNAP) traits among 704 adults with current

alcohol and other substance use issues, past alcohol and other substance use issues, and no

history of alcohol or other substance use issues. Subjects were grouped based upon semi-

structured clinical interviews. The results supported previous research showing a propensity for

substance use among those with specific personality traits, and supported previous research

showing that the effects of substance use are significantly aligned with various traits associated

with several different personality disorders (Hopwood, et al., 2011). These traits include

impulsivity, tendencies to be manipulative, disinhibition, and self-harm. However, not all traits

were tested, and the lack of related data with regard to college and university students is


The finding that exhibitionism and disinhibition were significantly elevated among subjects

with past substance abuse or dependence diagnoses suggests evidence of a long lasting effect of


those charged with treatment of substance abuse and dependence. Not only does the finding

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