Trajectories of Sensation Seeking Among Puerto Rican Children and Youth

Martins, Silvia S.; Wall, Melanie M.; Eisenberg, Ruth; Blanco, Carlos; Santaella Tenorio, Julian; Ramos-Olazagasti, Maria; Canino, Glorisa; Bird, Hector R.; Brown, Qiana; Duarte, Cristiane S.

Objective: To document the natural course of sensation seeking from childhood to adolescence, characterize distinct sensation seeking trajectories, and examine how these trajectories vary according to selected predictors. Method: Data were obtained from the Boricua Youth Study, a longitudinal study of 2,491 children and adolescents of Puerto Rican background (3 assessments from 2000 to 2004). First, age-specific sensation seeking levels were characterized, and then age-adjusted residuals were analyzed using growth mixture models. Results: On average, sensation seeking was stable in childhood (ages 5–10 years) and increased during adolescence (ages 11–17 years). Mean scores of sensation seeking were higher in the South Bronx versus Puerto Rico and among males versus females. Four classes of sensation seeking trajectories were observed: most study participants had age-expected sensation seeking trajectories following the average for their age (“normative,” 43.8%); others (37.2%) remained consistently lower than the expected average for their age (“low” sensation seeking); some (12.0%) had an “accelerated” sensation seeking trajectory, increasing at a faster rate than expected; and a minority (7.0%) had a decreasing sensation seeking trajectory that started high but decreased, reaching scores slightly higher than the age-average sensation seeking scores (“stabilizers”). Site (South Bronx versus Puerto Rico) and gender were predictors of membership in a specific class of sensation seeking trajectory. Conclusion: It is important to take a developmental approach when examining sensation seeking and to consider gender and the social environment when trying to understand how sensation seeking evolves during childhood and adolescence.


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Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

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Published Here
April 19, 2017