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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2010 May;71(3):313-25.

Examining the etiology of associations between perceived parenting and adolescents' alcohol use: common genetic and/or environmental liabilities?

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  • 1Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, Biotech 1, Suite 100,Richmond, Virginia 23298-0126, USA. slatendresse@vcu.edu



Although twin studies yield consistent evidence of heritability in the frequency of adolescent alcohol use, parallel findings on parenting are more equivocal, supporting the role of genes in affective parenting but not as supportive in relation to parental control. The extent to which these patterns generalize to more nuanced forms of parenting is less clear. Furthermore, despite evidence linking parents' socialization practices with adolescents' alcohol-use behaviors, this study is the first attempt to determine the sources of this covariation.


The present study used epidemiological data from 4,729 adolescent twins (2,329 females) to examine the nature of associations between their perceptions of parenting at age 12 and frequencies of alcohol use at age 14. Univariate analyses assessed the relative contributions of genetic and environmental influences on variability within six domains of parenting. Among those displaying consistent evidence of heritability, bivariate models were used to explore sources of covariation with drinking frequency.


Univariate models suggested both genetic and environmental sources of variability across parenting phenotypes, including sex-specific sources of genetic liability within one dimension of parenting. However, despite evidence for heritability, bivariate analyses indicated that the covariation between alcohol use and perceptions of parental knowledge and warmth were entirely mediated through shared environmental pathways.


This study elucidates genetic and environmental sources of variability within individual parenting behaviors and characterizes the etiological nature of the association between parental socialization and adolescent alcohol use. The identification of specific and modifiable socialization practices will be crucial for the future development of parent-based prevention/intervention strategies.

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