Alcohol dependence and reproductive onset: Findings in two Australian twin cohorts

Mary Waldron, Andrew C. Heath, Kathleen K. Bucholz, Pamela A.F. Madden, Nicholas G. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Although early alcohol use is a strong predictor of future alcohol problems and adolescent drinking is associated with risky sexual behavior predictive of early childbearing, reproductive dysfunctions associated with delayed childbearing have been reported in adult drinkers. We examine the relationship between lifetime history of alcohol dependence (AD) and timing of first childbirth across reproductive development. Methods: Data were drawn from two cohorts of Australian twins born between 1893 and 1964 (3634 female and 1880 male twins) and between 1964 and 1971 (3381 female and 2748 male twins). Survival analyses were conducted using Cox proportional hazards regression models predicting age at first childbirth from AD, with sociodemographic characteristics, regular smoking, history of psychopathology, and family and childhood risks included as control variables in adjusted models. Results: Results suggest alcoholic women in both cohorts show overall delayed reproduction, with little effect of AD on timing of first reproduction in men. Effects of AD are particularly strong for women in the older cohort, where AD is associated with 73% decreased likelihood of first childbirth after age 29 [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.27, 95% CI: 0.10-0.75]. In adjusted models, effects reduce only slightly (HR = 0.29, 95% CI: 0.11-0.80). For women in the young cohort, AD is associated with delayed reproduction after age 24, with 40% decreased likelihood of first childbirth (HR = 0.60, 95% CI: 0.48-0.75). AD remains predictive in adjusted models, but without age interaction (HR = 0.72, 95% CI: 0.62-0.85). Conclusions: Findings of delayed reproductive onset in alcoholic women are consistent with alcohol-related reproductive dysfunctions, although underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown. To better understand AD differences in reproductive onset, continued research on both biological and psychosocial risks is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1865-1874
Number of pages10
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Alcohol dependence
  • Reproductive timing
  • Survival analysis


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