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J Stud Alcohol. 1990 Nov;51(6):542-7.

Family background of alcohol abuse and its relationship to alcohol consumption among college students: an unexpected finding.

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Department of Applied Health Science, Indiana University, Bloomington 47405.


The purpose of this study was to determine the possible association between positive family background of alcohol abuse (having a parent or grandparent who sometimes or often drank too much) and the amount of alcohol consumed per week among college students. It was additionally to determine the possible differences between students with positive, compared to students with negative, family backgrounds of alcohol abuse in regards to drinking patterns, using a survey instrument that indirectly measures family background for alcohol abuse. For this cross-sectional study, a quota sample of 971 college students from all four regions of the United States was selected. Results revealed no association between family history and mean amount of alcohol consumed per week for the total sample (r = .007), or for men (r = .04) or women (r = .02). Curve analysis indicated a slightly positively skewed curve for the total group and also for male and female students. A t test and chi-square analysis found no significant difference between positive and negative family backgrounds and mean amount of alcohol consumed or drinking patterns. Among those with positive family backgrounds there was no clustering on a scatter plot for either heavy or light amounts of alcohol consumed. The results showed remarkable similarity in alcohol consumption and drinking patterns between students who were classified as having a positive, as opposed to negative, family background. It was concluded that having a positive family background for heavy drinking was not associated with either light or heavy alcohol consumption among this national sample of college students.

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