Predictive utility of the NEO-FFI for later substance experiences among 16-year-old adolescents



The onset of substance use mostly occurs during adolescence. The aim of the present study is to investigate the relevance of personality on the basis of the NEO-Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) to future experiences with tobacco, alcohol and cannabis.


The test data were derived from the baseline assessment and first follow-up of the IMAGEN study, a European multicenter and multidisciplinary research project on adolescent mental health. In the present study 1004 participants were tested. The characterization of personality was conducted with the NEO-FFI at the age of 14 (T1). The data on substance use were collected with the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) questionnaire at the age of 16 (T2). For the statistical analysis, t-tests and univariate analyses of variance were performed.


The scores of Conscientiousness at T1 were significantly lower for adolescents with tobacco, alcohol and cannabis experiences at T2. We found lower scores of Agreeableness at T1 in participants with tobacco and cannabis use at T2. Extraversion at T1 was significantly higher for adolescents with smoking experiences at T2. No significant associations between Neuroticism or Openness and future substance use were observed.


Low scores of Conscientiousness and Agreeableness seem to have the greatest value for a prediction of later experiences with substance use. As the present study is the first one to examine the predictive value of the NEO-FFI for future substance use in an adolescent sample, further studies are necessary to enable a better applicability in a clinical context.

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This work received support from the following sources: the European Union-funded FP6 Integrated Project IMAGEN (Reinforcement-related behaviour in normal brain function and psychopathology) (LSHM-CT- 2007–037286), the FP7 projects IMAGEMEND (602450; IMAgingGEnetics for MENtal Disorders) and MATRICS (603016), the Innovative Medicine Initiative Project EU-AIMS (115300–2), a Medical Research Council Programme Grant “Developmental pathways into adolescent substance abuse” (93558), the Swedish funding agency FORMAS, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, University of Cambridge), the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF grants 01GS08152; 01EV0711; eMED SysAlc01ZX1311A;Forschungsnetz AERIAL), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG grants SM 80/7-1, SM 80/7-2, SFB 940/1) and the National Institutes of Health, USA (Axon, Testosterone and Mental Health during Adolescence; RO1 MH085772-01A1).

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Correspondence to Juergen Gallinat.

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Parchetka, C., Strache, N., Raffaelli, B. et al. Predictive utility of the NEO-FFI for later substance experiences among 16-year-old adolescents. J Public Health 24, 489–495 (2016).

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  • Adolescence
  • Personality
  • Five-factor model of personality
  • Substance use