Early-onset alcohol use is associated with increased vulnerability to subsequent alcohol abuse and dependence. However, not all early-onset alcohol users develop alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Using a sample of young women from the United States, we identify correlates that contribute to a greater likelihood of AUDs in early-onset alcohol users. Using interview and questionnaire data on participants of the Missouri Adolescent Female Twin Study (MOAFTS), we examine whether measures from domains including sociodemographic, pubertal development, religiosity, educational achievement, adverse life events, internalizing disorders, externalizing disorders, and family history and discipline were associated with development of AUDs in 1,158 women who had their first drink of alcohol prior to age 16. Early-onset drinkers were 3.6 times more likely to meet criteria for AUDs than later onset drinkers. While univariate analyses revealed that a host of correlates were associated with likelihood of AUDs in early-onset drinkers, multivariate analyses suggested that, even after accounting for a particularly early age of onset of drinking, those with a history of physical abuse, cotwin alcohol problems, conduct disorder, regular smoking, older peers, and peer substance use were considerably more likely to meet criteria for AUDs than early-onset drinkers without a lifetime history of these correlates. The progression from first drink to AUDs is complex, and while early age at first drink is a potent risk factor, other aspects of psychopathology, family history, conduct problems, and peer affiliations can exacerbate or alleviate the risk of AUDs in these young female drinkers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-434
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal on Addictions
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011


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