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J Stud Alcohol. 2006 Jan;67(1):75-85.

Educational achievement and early school behavior as predictors of alcohol-use disorders: 35-year follow-up of the Woodlawn Study.

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Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



Using prospectively gathered data across a 35-year follow-up interval, we assessed the association of educational achievement and school behaviors with risk for the development of an alcohol-use disorder in adulthood.


The baseline population consisted of 1242 first-grade students in 1966-1967 residing in the Woodlawn community of Chicago, Illinois. Follow-up interviews were completed for adolescents and their mothers (1975-1976), during young adulthood (1992-1993), and midlife (2002-2003). A total of 1052 individuals completed the young adult and/or midlife interviews and provided information to assess the presence of a lifetime alcohol-use disorder. Logistic regression with multiple imputation to account for missing information was used to assess the relationships between early-educational and school-behavior characteristics with onset of a DSM-III-R/DSM-IV alcohol-use disorder (defined using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview).


Relatively few of the hypothesized educational predictors were associated with risk for alcohol-use disorders in adulthood. The measures found to be predictive of a subsequent alcohol-use disorder included the following: (1) math achievement among first-grade boys, (2) mothers' report of skipping school among adolescent males, (3) self-report of skipping school among adolescent girls, and (4) school dropout. Early shyness among first-grade boys was protective for later alcohol-use disorders.


The current report supplies data on the association of educational characteristics and school behaviors with the development of an alcohol-use disorder in a population-based sample with an extended interval of follow-up. Gender-specific differences are discussed.

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