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J Stud Alcohol. 2001 Jul;62(4):477-85.

Correlates of unpredicted outcomes in sons of alcoholics and controls.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, & the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, 92161-2002, USA.



Several risk factors for alcohol abuse and dependence have been identified, including a family history of the disorder and a low response to alcohol. However, not everyone with these attributes develops an alcohol use disorder and some alcoholics have neither characteristic. This article evaluates factors that might have contributed to unexpected outcomes, in a prospective study of sons of alcoholics and controls.


411 men with complete data at baseline (Time 1 or T1) and at 15-year (Time 15 or T15) follow-ups were studied using the level of response (LR) to alcohol, the family history (FH) of alcoholism, and additional alcohol and drug-related experiences at T1. T15 data included the development of alcohol abuse or dependence, along with the 15-year functioning in six domains for the subject, as well as the characteristics of his spouse. The men were divided into groups based on the presence of two major risk factors, low LR and FH, after controlling for several other characteristics, including antisocial personality disorder.


Rates of alcohol use disorders increased across Group 1 (family history negative [FHN] and no low LR), Group 2 (either family history positive [FHP] or low LR, but not both) and Group 3 (both FHP and low LR). After controlling for FH and LR for Group 1, only T1 drinking quantity and T15 positive alcohol expectancies related to a diagnosis, but explained only 12% of the variance. The results improved to R2's of 0.26 and 0.36 for Groups 2 and 3, with additional predictors including the T1 history of alcohol problems and T15 measures of poor coping mechanisms, higher drinking in the environment and less nurturance in the social support system.


Procedures aimed at discouraging earlier heavier drinking, altering attitudes toward alcohol early in life, teaching appropriate coping methods and developing support systems might help individuals carrying multiple risk factors to become more resilient.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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