Delay discounting as a mediator of the relationship between perceived stress and cigarette smoking status in adolescents


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Abstract

There has been a wealth of research providing evidence for the relationship between stress and cigarette smoking during adolescence. Despite this knowledge, little is known about possible behavioral mechanisms by which stress exerts its influence on the decision to smoke. This study sought to examine one such behavioral characteristic, delay discounting, that may mediate the relationship between stress and cigarette smoking. Delay discounting generally refers to the discounting of value for outcomes because they are delayed; and high rates of delay discounting have been linked to impulsive behavior. For the current research, adolescent smokers (n = 50) and nonsmokers (n = 50) were compared using a self-report measure of perceived stress and a laboratory assessment of delay discounting. Smokers tended to report higher levels of stress and to discount more by delay, and there was a significant association between reported stress and delay discounting. In addition, delay discounting mediated the relationship between stress and cigarette smoking status. These results suggest that discounting by delay may be a behavior through which stress exerts influence on an adolescent's decision to smoke.

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