Gender Differences in Adolescent Psychiatric Outpatient Substance Use: Associated Behaviors and Feelings


Objective: To investigate gender differences in substance use and associated high-risk behaviors and feeling states in 220 adolescent psychiatric outpatients. Method: One hundred seven females and 113 males with a mean age of 15.6 (SD +/- 1.4), seen in a tertiary care center adolescent psychiatry clinic, completed scales tapping substance use and associated feelings and behaviors. Approximately half had used nicotine and alcohol, one third had used marijuana, and 10% reported narcotic use. Results: Conduct disorder behavior, suicidality, and impulsivity scale scores decreased with age in females while marijuana use, conduct disorder behavior, and Hypophoria scale scores increased with age in males. Alcohol use in males, as contrasted with females, correlated more significantly with other substance use and high-risk behaviors. Suicidality tended to correlate more with polysubstance use in females and with sexual behaviors in females only. Substance use correlated with the Impulsivity and Need scale scores in males and scores on the Sociopathy scale in females. Conclusions: Substance use in males correlates with high-risk behaviors and is associated with feelings of impulsivity and need. Substance use correlates with self-destructive behaviors and sociopathic feelings in females. There is evidence of more persistent high-risk behaviors, including substance use, in males than in females.

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