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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2009 Aug;48(8):820-7. doi: 10.1097/CHI.0b013e3181aa0383.

Anticipating problem drinking risk from preschoolers' antisocial behavior: evidence for a common delinquency-related diathesis model.

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Department of Criminal Justice, University of North Dakota, USA.



Early first drinking (EFD) experiences predict later alcohol problems. However, the longitudinal pathway from early childhood leading to EFD has not been well delineated. Based on documented links between drinking behaviors and chronic antisocial behaviors, this article tests a common diathesis model in which precursive patterns of aggression and delinquent behavior-from preschool onward-anticipate EFD.


Participants were 220 male children and their parents in a high risk for substance use disorder prospective study. Early first drinking was defined as having had a first drink by 12 to 14 years of age. Stacked structural equation models and configural frequency analyses were used to compare those with and without EFD on aggression and delinquent behavior from ages 3 to 5 years through 12 to 14 years.


Delinquent behavior and aggression decreased normatively throughout childhood for those with and without EFD, although those with EFD showed precocious resurgences moving into early adolescence. Early first drinking was associated with delinquent behavior more than aggression. Early drinkers were more delinquent at most ages-with a direct effect of preschool predisposition on adolescent behavior only within the EFD group. Early first drinking was disproportionately likely among individuals with high levels of delinquent behavior at both 3 to 5 and 12 to 14 years of age but uncommon among individuals with low levels of delinquent behavior during those two age periods.


Early first drinking and delinquent behavior share a common diathesis evident before school entry. Intervention and prevention programs targeting problem drinking risk should focus on dismantling this emergent primarily delinquency-related developmental trajectory.

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