Background: Negative urgency reflects a specific facet of impulsivity and correlates with a wide range of health-related risk behaviors, including but not limited to problematic substance use. Negative urgency is also shaped by family socioeconomic position such as parental educational attainment.
Aim: To investigate sex differences in the boosting effects of parental educational attainment on children's negative urgency in the US.
Materials and methods: This is a cross-sectional study using the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. Baseline ABCD included 10535 American children between ages 9 and 10 years old. The independent variable was parental educational attainment. The primary outcome was the negative urgency measured by the Urgency, Premeditation (lack of), Perseverance (lack of), Sensation Seeking, Positive Urgency, Impulsive Behavior Scale (UPPS-SS). Mixed-effects regression models were used for data analysis.
Results: In the overall sample, parental educational attainment was not associated with negative urgency in the children. Sex showed a statistically significant interaction with parental educational attainment on children's negative urgency, indicating a stronger protective effect of high parental educational attainment for female, compared to male, children. In stratified models, high parental educational attainment was associated with lower levels of negative urgency in female but not male children.
Conclusion: Parental educational attainment is a determinant of negative urgency for female but not male American children. American boys have high levels of negative urgency, which is a risk factor of drug use, at all parental education levels.