Youth with a family history of substance use disorder (FH+) are more prone to have externalizing and internalizing problems compared to youth without a family history of substance use disorder (FH−), increasing the likelihood of later maladjustment. However, mechanisms for this association remain understudied. In this longitudinal study, we examined if FH+ youth are more likely to experience early-life stressors (ELS), which in turn would increase impulsivity and the expression of externalizing and internalizing behaviors. Data were collected from youth and a parent (n = 386) during a baseline assessment (age 10–12 years) and every six months when the youth was 13–16 years old. In support of the primary hypothesis, FH+ youth reported higher levels of externalizing and internalizing behaviors through ELS to impulsivity providing a developmental pathway through which FH+ youth are more prone to externalizing and internalizing problems.