Do personality characteristics predict future alcohol problems after considering current demography, substance use, and alcohol response?

Marc A. Schuckit, Tom L. Smith, George Danko, Kathleen K. Bucholz, Victor Hesselbrock, Michie Hesselbrock, Samuel Kuperman, John Kramer, John I. Nurnberger, Dongbing Lai, Grace Chan, Chella Kamarajan, Sally Kuo, Danielle M. Dick, Jake Tear, Lee Anne Mendoza, Howard J. Edenberg, Bernice Porjesz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Several personality traits predict future alcohol problems but also relate to demographic and substance-related variables that themselves correlate with later adverse alcohol outcomes. Few prospective studies have evaluated whether personality measures predict alcohol problems after considering current demographic and substance-related variables. Methods: Data from 414 drinkers without alcohol use disorder (AUD) from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (average age 20, 44% male) were followed over an average of 9 years. Time 1 (baseline) demography, AUD family history (FH), substance use and problems, and psychiatric histories were gathered using a standardized interview; the Level of Response (LR) to alcohol was measured by the Self-Report of the Effects of alcohol (SRE) questionnaire; and seven personality dimensions were extracted from the NEO Five-Factor Personality, Barratt, and Zuckerman scales. Analyses involved product–moment correlations of each baseline measure with the highest number of DSM-IV AUD criteria endorsed in any follow-up period, and hierarchical regression analyses evaluated whether the personality domains added significantly to the prediction of the outcome after adjusting for other baseline variables. Results: Significant correlations with the outcome were observed for baseline age, sex, length of follow-up, AUD family history, past cannabis use, and all alcohol-related baseline variables, including SRE-based LR, but not prior mood or anxiety disorders. All personality characteristics except extraversion also correlated with outcomes. A hierarchical regression analysis that included all relevant personality scores together demonstrated significant contributions to the prediction of future alcohol problems for demographics in Step 1; demographics and most baseline alcohol items, including response level, in Step 2; and cannabis use in Step 3; after which demographics, LR, baseline alcohol problems, cannabis use, and higher sensation seeking added significantly in Step 4. Regression for each personality domain separately revealed significant contributions to Step 4 for all personality domains except openness. Lower levels of response to alcohol added significantly to all regression analyses. Conclusions: Most tested personality scores and lower levels of response to alcohol contributed to predictions of later alcohol problems even after considering baseline demographic and substance use measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1179-1190
Number of pages12
JournalAlcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • AUD problems
  • alcohol
  • alcohol response
  • personality


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