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A new study shows that how children act before they reach age five might predict their alcohol use a decade later.

The study, announced July 12 by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, showed that childhood temperament can predict future alcohol engagement.

Most risk factors for alcohol include roots in early childhood, according to the study, that stick with them through adolescence.

 

The research team found that childhood temperament before age five can predict alcohol use at age 15 and a half.

“Most scientists who study alcohol use start studying people in adolescence, since that is when alcohol use is usually first initiated,” says Danielle Dick, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics professor and the study's author.“But people don’t enter adolescence as blank slates. They have a history of life experiences that they bring with them, dating back to early childhood.”

Both children who showed emotional and behavioral problems, as well as those who were consistently sociable, were at risk for alcohol use, according to the study.

Sociability was a stronger tie to alcohol use than emotional problems, researchers said.

“This underscores the fact that drinking during adolescence is largely a social phenomenon,” Dick adds. “However, this doesn’t mean it’s less problematic. We know from other studies that most adolescent drinking is high risk – for example, binge drinking."

Full results will be published in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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