Psychologist Receives $4.1 Million in Grants from NIH

Studies to examine factors that promote/mitigate adolescent substance use

Release Date: December 1, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Understanding of the transition into adolescence and what may promote or mitigate substance abuse in adolescents will be advanced by research conducted by a University at Buffalo psychologist that is being funded by two grants totaling more than $4.1 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Craig Colder, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences, has received a $2.1 million grant for a five-year study titled "Motivation in Context: Risk for Early Substance Use."

The second study, "Problem Behavior, Peers and Motivational Aspects of Temperament in Substance Use" has been funded for $2 million over five years.

"Motivation in Context" will examine motivational and self-regulatory aspects of adolescent development, and how these interact over time to influence attitudes about drugs and alcohol, and peer context to affect initiation and escalation of substance use.

"In this study," says Colder, "we will integrate individual factors (motivational aspects of temperament, substance abuse-related cognitions) with micro social (caregiver, peer influences) and macro social (community) factors to build an etiological model of early adolescent substance abuse.

"The study will be novel in its integration of multiple levels of influence, in our multi-method assessment of these factors and in consideration of the developmental context in which substance abuse begins," he adds.

Colder's co-investigators on the grant are Larry Hawk, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at UB, Jennifer Read, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at UB; Rina Das Eiden, senior research scientist in UB's Research Institute on Addictions and research associate professor of pediatrics and psychology in UB's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; Liliana Lengua, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, University of Washington, and William Wieczorek, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health and Social Research at Buffalo State College.

The second study (of problem behavior, peers, motivational aspects of temperament in substance use) will analyze the role of problem behavior, in particular the co-occurrence of internalizing problems (marked by anxiety and mood) and externalizing problems (attention-deficit/hyperactivity and oppositional defiant disorders, autism) in the development of adolescent substance use.

Colder's co-investigators on this grant are Hawk, Lengua and Wieczorek.

Colder maintains that the role of internalizing problems and the co-occurrence of internalizing and externalizing problems in the etiology of adolescent substance use has not been adequately studied. 

"Of particular interest," says Colder, "is whether behavior problems lead children to select into peer groups that support substance use, or whether behavior problems leave children vulnerable to the influence peers to use drugs and alcohol.

"In this research," he says, "we will use a data analysis technique that distinguishes components of variance, shared and unique, among dimensions of child behavior problems. This will make it possible for us to discern the unique and combined effects of externalizing and internalizing problems on substance use.

"For instance," he notes, "risk for substance use posed by behavior problems may depend on a child's other characteristics including their motivational and self-regulatory temperaments.  In particular, the self-medication pathway to substance use might be dependant upon a child's high-risk temperament profile.

"Since early patterns of substance use often presage later substance abuse," Colder says, "prevention of these behaviors is most important. The results of this research will inform prevention and treatment efforts."

Colder received two other NIDA grants this year totaling $1,237,500. His NIDA studies reflect his research interests in identifying multiple levels of influence that contribute to the development of adolescent substance use.

He has previously examined the joint effects of behavioral under control and emotionality on behavior problems, how children's temperament moderates the influence of parenting on behavior problems, and the processes by which living in a dangerous neighborhood influences adjustment.

Colder says, "My research will continue to integrate individual differences into current socialization and ecological theories. Several laboratory studies are planned to measure physiological reactivity, information processing, and impulsivity and to examine how these individual differences observed in the laboratory influence the initiation and escalation of substance use."

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