No Link Between Family Alcoholism, Child's First Drink

Kids who try alcohol early do so for other reasons, study finds

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THURSDAY, Oct. 13, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A family history of alcoholism has little to do with the age at which a child takes his or her first alcoholic drink, a U.S. study finds.

The study of children aged 7 to 17 looked at four factors that may affect age at first drinking: child characteristics, family demographics, family psychopathology, and child behavior problems.

"Three variables explained 45 percent of the model variance," study corresponding author Dr. Samuel Kuperman, director of the division of child psychiatry, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said in a prepared statement. "Age at interview accounted for 38.3 percent, conduct scale score accounted for 6.2 percent, and the number of alcohol-dependent adult siblings accounted for 0.5 percent," he said.

According to Kuperman, "no family history measures of alcohol dependence or antisocial personality disorder were contributory to the prediction model for age at first drink."

The study appears in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"I was not surprised to see that the child and environmental factors were stronger predictors of age at first drink than family history," Stephan Arndt, a psychiatry professor at the Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, said in a prepared statement.

"Environment and how the child reacts to his/her environment are clearly more important determinants of age of first drink and, possibly, negative outcomes from alcohol. Culture also plays a large role. While there may be genetic components operating on drinking behavior, these seem to only be related to level of risk and ultimately must interact with the environment," Arndt said.

He said that previous research has linked early age at first drink with increased rates of childhood psychiatric disorders, reduced success in school and extracurricular activities, increased criminal behavior and lowered life satisfaction and productivity.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about kids and alcohol.

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, Oct. 13, 2005

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