What characterizes adolescents with early alcohol and drug experiences? - A dissertation on adolescents’ mental health, personality and substance use.

Karin Boson, leg. Psykolog och doktorand, GU

It is clear that the mental health among adolescents has not improved during the last 20-30 years. However, there are contradictory reports on whether it has got worse or not. On one hand, reports declare high wellbeing among adolescents. On the other hand, findings also show increased levels of anxiety and depression among adolescents. One possible explanation might be a general confusion about the concept of mental health and how it is studied. The absence of mental illness does not imply the presence of mental wellbeing. The positive dimensions of mental health are under-studied compared to the negative aspects of mental health, especially the relation between mental illness and mental wellbeing. Studies have shown that the absence of wellbeing can affect everyday function as much as, and even more than, the presence of mental illness.

An early alcohol debut, mental illness and personality traits, as sensation seeking and impulsivity, are all individual risk factors for developing substance abuse and psychiatric problems later on in life. Few studies have however analyzed mental wellbeing and mental illness parallel and their relation to personality factors and alcohol use, particularly among adolescents.

The aim of my dissertation is to study adolescents’ mental well-being, ill-being and personality and their relation to alcohol use and delinquent behaviors. My studies both analyze a general group of adolescents, but also involve more specific analyses on adolescents with an early alcohol debut.

I defended my licentiate dissertation in March 2016: ”How do the “tweenies” do? Mental health, alcohol experiences and personality among young adolescents”. A “tween” [pl. tweenies] is a young person in the developmental stage of preadolescence, between early childhood and adolescence, an individual approximately from eight to 14 years old. They are “in between”, therefore the name “tween”.

The licentiate dissertation includes two studies based on data from LoRDIA:

  • Boson, K., Berglund, K., Wennberg, P., & Fahlke, C. (2016), Well-being, mental health problems, and alcohol experiences among young Swedish adolescents: a general population study. Journal for Person-Oriented Research, 2(3), 123-134. DOI: 10.17505/jpor.2016.12.
  • Boson, K., Brändström, S., & Sigvardsson, S. (2017). The Junior Temperament and Character Inventory (JTCI): Psychometric Properties of Multi-Informant Ratings Submitted

Further studies will develop knowledge of the two-dimensional model of mental health, in which mental wellbeing and mental ill-being represent two related but separated dimensions. The combination of both mental wellbeing and mental ill-being within the individual is explored and related to personality, alcohol use and delinquent behavior.

Contact: Karin Boson, PhLic, PhD candidate, Lic psychologist at the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg.

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