Sensation Seeking–Disinhibition and Alcohol Use: Exploring Issues of Criterion Contamination

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Disinhibition has been theorized to increase risk for alcohol abuse. Because a major index of disinhibition, the Disinhibition subscale of the Sensation Seeking Scales (DIS; M.Zuckerman, 1979, 1987), includes items that explicitly ask about alcohol use (see M. Zuckerman, 1994), the nature and extent of predictor–criterion contamination merits investigation. Using structural equation modeling, this study examined the factor structure and predictive validity of the DIS with drinking in 1,217 college students. A 3-factor model best fit the DIS, and prediction of drinking by these factors varied based on their intrinsic levels of alcohol relatedness. Hence, the relationship between alcohol abuse risk and the DIS may require reconsideration. The factor structure of the DIS also varied between light and heavy drinkers; the clinical and psychometric implications of this finding are discussed.

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