A study by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the US has found that how children behave before age five may predict how they will use alcohol as teenagers.
The international research team, led by Danielle Dick from VCU’s department of psychiatry, looked at the influence of childhood temperament on alcohol use and problems later in life. It discovered that temperament before the age of five can predict alcohol use at 15.5 years, even after controlling for socio-demographic aspects and parents’ problems with alcohol.
Dick explained why they decided to focus on early childhood: “Most scientists who study alcohol use start studying people in adolescence, since that is when alcohol use is usually first initiated/experimented with, but people don’t enter adolescence as blank slates; they have a history of life experiences that they bring with them.”
The team drew data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a large epidemiological sample of pregnant women who gave birth between April 1991 and December 1992. The children – 6504 boys and 6143 girls – were followed and their temperamental traits were evaluated six times, from six to 69 months of age. Alcohol use and problems were evaluated at 15.5 years.
The study found that not only kids who show consistent emotional and behavioural problems at an early age have high risks for alcohol use; those who are consistently sociable at an early age are at risk as well – in fact, there is an even stronger link.
“All things considered, it’s not just ‘problem kids’ who get involved in alcohol use. It’s also the highly sociable kids as well,” Dick concluded.
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