Relationship of age of first drink to child behavioral problems and family psychopathology

Samuel Kuperman, Grace Chan, John R. Kramer, Laura Bierut, Kathleen K. Bucholz, Louis Fox, Victor Hesselbrock, John I. Numberger, Theodore Reich, Wendy Reich, Marc A. Schuckit, H. Edenberg, P. M. Connealfy, T. Foroud, R. Crowe, B. Porjesz, H. Begleiter, J. Rice, A. Goate, R. TaylorJ. Tischfield, L. Almasy

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Background: Studies have implicated a wide variety of variables as being associated with an early age of first drink (AFD). AFD in turn has been associated with a variety of negative outcomes in adolescence and early adulthood. This study is designed to quantify the contributions of these antecedent variables to prediction of AFD; in particular it will carefully examine the involvement of variables in four areas (child characteristics, family demographics, family psychopathology, and child behavior problems). Methods: Using data from a multicenter study on alcoholism, we first investigated the differences between two groups of children (ages 7 to 17 years), one from families heavily loaded for alcohol dependence and the other from population controls. Second, a multidomain, multistep regression model using child characteristics, family demographics, family psychopathology, and child behavior problems was performed to determine significant contributors to predicted AFD. Results: Five variables initially contributed to the prediction of AFD. These included gender, age at interview, the number of adult sibs with alcohol dependence, being held back a year in school, and conduct scale score. However, the number of conduct symptoms appeared to contain the contributions of gender and being held back a grade in school, and these two variables were subsequent removed from the model. The remaining three variables explained 45% of the model variance; age at interview accounted for 38.3%, conduct scale score accounted for 6.2%, and the number of alcohol-dependent adult sibs accounted for 0.5%. No family history measures of alcohol dependence or antisocial personality disorder were contributory to the prediction model for AFD. Conclusions: Both the "number of conduct symptoms" and the "number of adult sibs with alcohol dependence" are inversely associated with predicted AFD. The latter variable appears marginally predictive of AFD and suggests a condition in which the child's household, regardless of strength of family history of AD (or antisocial personality disorder), appears conducive to early drinking. Thus, child and environmental factors are stronger predictors of age of first drink than family history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1869-1876
Number of pages8
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2005


  • Age of first drink
  • Child behavioral symptoms
  • Family psychopathology


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