Sensitivity and Specificity of a Brief Personality Screening Instrument in Predicting Future Substance Use, Emotional, and Behavioral Problems: 18-Month Predictive Validity of the Substance Use Risk Profile Scale


Reprint requests: Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, PhD, Centre de recherche du CHU Ste-Justine, Université de Montréal, 3175 Chemin de la Côte Sainte-Catherine, Montréal, QC, Canada H3T 1C5; Tel.: 514-345-4931 ext. 3150; Fax: 514-345-2176; E-mail:



This study assessed the validity, sensitivity, and specificity of the Substance Use Risk Profile Scale (SURPS), a measure of personality risk factors for substance use and other behavioral problems in adolescence.


The concurrent and predictive validity of the SURPS was tested in a sample of 1,162 adolescents (mean age: 13.7 years) using linear and logistic regressions, while its sensitivity and specificity were examined using the receiver operating characteristics curve analyses.


Concurrent and predictive validity tests showed that all 4 brief scales—hopelessness (H), anxiety sensitivity (AS), impulsivity (IMP), and sensation seeking (SS)—were related, in theoretically expected ways, to measures of substance use and other behavioral and emotional problems. Results also showed that when using the 4 SURPS subscales to identify adolescents “at risk,” one can identify a high number of those who developed problems (high sensitivity scores ranging from 72 to 91%). And, as predicted, because each scale is related to specific substance and mental health problems, good specificity was obtained when using the individual personality subscales (e.g., most adolescents identified at high risk by the IMP scale developed conduct or drug use problems within the next 18 months [a high specificity score of 70 to 80%]).


The SURPS is a valuable tool for identifying adolescents at high risk for substance misuse and other emotional and behavioral problems. Implications of findings for the use of this measure in future research and prevention interventions are discussed.