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Childhood socioeconomic deprivation, but not current mood, is associated with behavioural disinhibition in adults

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Tunde Paal, Tom Carpenter, Professor Daniel Nettle



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


There is evidence to suggest that impulsivity is predicted by socioeconomic background, with people from more deprived backgrounds tending to be more impulsive, and by current mood, with poorer mood associated with greater impulsivity. However, impulsivity is not a unitary construct, and previous research in this area has focused on measures of 'waiting' impulsivity rather than behavioural disinhibition. We administered a standard measure of behavioural disinhibition, the stop-signal task, to 58 adult participants from a community sample. We had measured socioeconomic background using participant postcode at age 16, and assigned participants to receive either a neutral or a negative mood induction. We found no effects of mood on behavioural disinhibition, but we found a significant effect of socioeconomic background. Participants who had lived in more deprived postcodes at age 16 showed longer stop-signal reaction times, and hence greater behavioural disinhibition. The pattern was independent of participant age and overall reaction time. Though caution is required inferring causality from correlation, it is possible that that experiencing socioeconomic deprivation in childhood and adolescence may lead to greater behavioural disinhibition in adulthood.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Paál T, Carpenter T, Nettle D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PeerJ

Year: 2015

Volume: 3

Online publication date: 14/05/2015

Acceptance date: 27/04/2015

Date deposited: 21/06/2016

ISSN (electronic): 2167-8359

Publisher: PeerJ Inc.


DOI: 10.7717/peerj.964


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