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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1995 Aug;19(4):1011-7.

Alcohol schema acquisition in preschoolers: differences between children of alcoholics and children of nonalcoholics.

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Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.


Cognitive schemas provide the structure within which children organize their knowledge and beliefs about the use of alcohol. The development of schemas about alcohol should be affected both by age and parental patterns of alcohol use. We examined differences in alcohol schema development among 139 male children of alcoholics (COAs) and 82 controls [children of nonalcoholics (NCOAs)] utilizing the Appropriate Beverage Task as an indicator of these processes. Overall, the vast majority of the sample identified at least one alcoholic beverage from photographs, even at age 3. COAs were more likely to identify at least one alcoholic beverage. With age controlled, COAs were better able to identify specific alcoholic beverages and correctly identified a larger number of alcoholic beverages. There was a trend for these children of alcoholic men to attribute more alcoholic beverage use to male adults than NCOAs. Moreover, differences in these children's attributions of alcoholic consummatory behavior were predicted by their parents' current consumption levels. Results provide evidence that alcohol schemas are detectable in early childhood and are more common in children from alcoholic homes. Discussion focuses on the potential relevance of these risk attributes to the development of more fully formed alcohol expectancies and to the later emergence of alcohol-related difficulty.

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