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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2011 Sep;72(5):701-10.

Association between adolescent drinking and adult violence: evidence from a longitudinal study of urban African Americans.

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Department of Behavioral and Community Health, University of Maryland School of Public Health, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.



This study examined the relationship between adolescent alcohol use and adult violence from a developmental perspective, specifically whether frequent adolescent drinking predicts adult violence once shared risk factors are taken into account through propensity score matching. The research considered multiple types of violence, including assault, robbery, and suicidal behavior, as well as other types of offending. It tested whether educational attainment and adult alcohol use and problems contribute to the adolescent drinking-adult violence relationship.


Data came from a longitudinal epidemiological study of a community cohort of urban African Americans followed from age 6 to 42 (N = 702; 51% female). Frequent adolescent drinking was operationalized as 20 times or more by age 16. Data on violent arrests and offenses were collected throughout adulthood from self-reports and official criminal records. Matching variables came from childhood and adolescence and included such shared risk factors as childhood externalizing behaviors, school achievement, and family functioning.


Adjusted logistic regression analyses on the sample matched on childhood and adolescent risk factors showed that frequent adolescent drinking was associated with an increased risk of violence in young adulthood (in particular assault) but not with other types of crime, self-directed violence, or violence in midlife. Findings varied by gender. Heavy episodic drinking in adulthood seemed to account for some of the association between frequent adolescent drinking and adult assault.


The results of this study suggest that preventing frequent adolescent drinking could potentially decrease adult assault. This study adds to the growing body of literature suggesting long-term negative consequences of adolescent alcohol use.

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