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J Stud Alcohol. 1999 Jul;60(4):509-13.

Neuropsychological characteristics in children of alcoholics: familial density.

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Departamento de Psicoloxía Clínica e Psicobioloxía, Facultade de Psicoloxía, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Coruña, Spain.



The purpose of high-risk studies is to find characteristics that allow the identification of subjects with a higher vulnerability to alcoholism. The aim of this research was to verify if the familial density criterion is useful for subtyping children of alcoholics with different neuropsychological characteristics.


A battery of neuropsychological tests was administered to 102 boys and girls of 7-15 years of age; 66 were children of alcoholics with a high (n = 32) and low (n = 34) familial density of alcoholism, and 36 were children of nonalcoholic fathers with a negative family history of the disorder. The battery included tests to assess attention, visuospatial abilities and frontal functions.


MANCOVAs showed that high-density children scored lower than children of nonalcoholic fathers in attentional and visuospatial tasks. There were no differences between low-density and negative family history children in these cognitive domains.


These results suggest that children of alcoholics are not a homogeneous group. Children with multigenerational alcoholism, but not children with an alcoholic father, showed reduced performance in specific cognitive areas.

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