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National Cancer Institute
Behavioral Research - Cancer Control and Population Sciences

NCI Measures Guide for Youth Tobacco Research

Negative Life Events Inventory
Wills et al.

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Brief Description: This is a 20-item checklist of negative life events based on previous inventories (Newcomb & Harlow, 1986; Wills et al., 1992) of adolescent life events. With each item, adolescents are asked to indicate whether the event had occurred during the previous year, using a dichotomous (yes-no) response scale. The inventory includes 11 events that occurred to family members (e.g., "Somebody in my family had a serious illness") and 9 events that occurred directly to the adolescent (e.g., "I had a serious accident").
Target Population: Adolescents, grades 7-9
Administrative Issues: Can be administered in a classroom setting.
Scoring Information: To obtain a total score, sum the raw scores for all items. A higher score indicates more negative life events. A family events score can be obtained by summing items 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 14, 18, and 19. An adolescent events score can be obtained by summing items 4, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, and 20.
Psychometrics:

Internal Consistency: Cronbach's alpha for the entire scale ranges from 0.67 to 0.71. Family events scale yielded alphas ranging from 0.58 to 0.62, while the adolescent events scale yielded alphas ranging from 0.50 to 0.54.
Family events and adolescent life events scores were correlated 0.41 (6th grade) and 0.46 (7th grade).

Construct Validity:
Substance use level. The total score was significantly associated with substance use level (greater substance use associated with greater negative life events).
Adolescent life events score was associated with deviant peer affiliations, and adolescent substance use level.
Total life events score was inversely associated with parental supportiveness and adaptive coping/good self-control.

Clinical Utility of Instrument: This instrument can be used by clinicians to identify stressors and level of stress over the past year.
Research Applicability: This measure provides a continuous index of life stress, including specific information on personal stress and family-related stressors, among substance abusing adolescents.
Copyright, Cost, and Source Issues: This measure is freely available and in the public domain.
Source Reference:

Wills, T. A., Cleary, S. D., Filer, M., Shinar, O., Mariani, J., & Spera, K. (2001). Temperament related to early-onset substance use:Test of a developmental model. Prevention Science, 2, 145-163.

Wills, T. A., McNamara, G., Vaccaro, D., & Hirky, A. E. (1996).Escalated substance use: A longitudinal grouping analysis fromearly to middle adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105,166-180.

Supporting References:

Wills, T. A., Gibbons, F. X., Gerrard, M., & Brody, G. (2000).Protection and vulnerability processes for early onset of substanceuse: A test among African-American children. Health Psychology, 19,253-263. [Note: adolescent life and family life events consist of 15 items each in this study]

Wills, T. A., Sandy, J. M., & Shinar, O. (1999). Cloninger'sconstructs related to substance use level and problems in lateadolescence: A model based on self-control and coping motives. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 7, 122-134. [Note: family life events scale has 10 items in this study]

Wills, T. A., Windle, M., & Cleary, S. D. (1998). Temperament andnovelty-seeking in adolescent substance use: Convergence ofdimensions of temperament with constructs from Cloninger's theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 387-406. [Note: family life events scale has 10 items in this study]

Author: Thomas A. Wills, Ph.D.
Contact Information: Department of Epidemiology and Social Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
1300 Morris Park Avenue
Bronx, New York 10461
Email: wills@aecom.yu.edu
 

*Newcomb, M.D., & Harlow, L. L. (1986). Life events and substance use among adolescents. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 564-577.

Wills, T.A., Vaccaro, D., & McNamara, G. (1992). The role of life events, family support, and competence in adolescent substance use: A test of vulnerability and protective factors. American Journal of Community Psychology, 20, 349-374.

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Last Updated: May 1, 2012

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