Tweens easily influenced toward substance abuse

April 1, 2012

A study finding that tweens start out ambivalent toward cigarette and alcohol use also suggests that their negative associations with the substances are more easily weakened than their positive associations can be strengthened.

A study finding that tweens (children aged 10 to 12 years) start out ambivalent toward cigarette and alcohol use also suggests that their negative associations with the substances are more easily weakened than their positive associations can be strengthened.

Researchers tasked 378 children aged 10 to 12 years with associating images of cigarettes and alcohol to various negative or positive words. Using a mathematical formula of probabilities, the investigators identified the results as either impulsive or controlled processes as they related to drinking and smoking.

Differences across drinking status revealed weaker automatic activation of negative alcohol associations for those who had initiated drinking versus those who had not. The entire sample supported a strong likelihood to overcome biased attitudes about substance use.

O'Conner RM, Lopez-Vergara HI, Colder CR. Implicit cognition and substance use: the role of controlled and automatic processes in children. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2012;73(1):134-143.