Searching for an Environmental Effect of Parental Alcoholism on Offspring Alcohol Use Disorder: A Genetically Informed Study of Children of Alcoholics

Wendy S. Slutske, Brian M. D'Onofrio, Eric Turkheimer, Robert E. Emery, K. Paige Harden, Andrew C. Heath, Nicholas G. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations

Abstract

The children-of-twins design was used to isolate a potentially causal environmental impact of having an alcoholic parent on offspring alcohol use disorder, by an examination of whether the children of alcoholics were at a higher risk for alcohol use disorders than were the children of nonalcoholic parents, even after correlated familial factors were controlled. Participants were 1,224 male and female twins from 836 twin pairs selected from the Australian Twin Registry, 2,334 of the twins' 18-39-year-old offspring, and 983 spouses of the twins. Lifetime histories of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.) alcohol use disorders were obtained by structured, psychiatric, telephone interviews conducted individually with each of the family members. Comparisons of the offspring of twins who were discordant for alcoholism indicated that there was no longer a statistically significant difference between the children of alcoholics and the children of nonalcoholics after genetic and family environmental factors correlated with having an alcoholic parent were controlled. The results of this study suggest that the direct causal effect of being exposed to an alcoholic parent on offspring alcohol use disorder is modest at best.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-551
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Volume117
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2008

Keywords

  • alcoholism
  • children of alcoholics
  • children of twins
  • multilevel modeling

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