Sensation Seeking in Psychiatrically Disturbed Youth: Relationship to Biochemical Parameters and Behavior Problems

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Relatively little research has been conducted on the relationship of personality traits or behavioral tendencies with biological parameters in youth. This study was intended to determine whether relationships exist between self-reported sensation-seeking tendencies and biochemical parameters in boys.


Twenty-five male youth aged 8 to 15 years admitted to a residential diagnostic center because of noncompliant, disruptive, and/or antisocial behavior were studied. Biochemical parameters associated with sensation seeking in adults or antisocial behavior were measured along with diagnoses, behavior ratings, and self-reported sensation seeking.


High sensation seeking, as assessed on a newly developed sensation-seeking scale for children, was inversely correlated with 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG) levels in the older youth (≥ 12.0 years) but not in the younger boys (<12.0 years) in the group. Elevations on the sensation seeking scale also correlated marginally in these older youth with parent-reported problems on a behavior rating scale, reflecting “delinquent” behavioral tendencies.


The findings support hypothesized noradrenergic dysregulation in some sensation-seeking persons (including youth ≥12.0 years) and the relationship between high sensation-seeking tendencies and antisocial or disruptive behavioral disorder.

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