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The Association of Educational Achievement and School Dropout with Risk of Alcoholism: A Twenty-Five-Year Prospective Study of Inner-City Children

Rosa M. Crum, Margaret E. Ensminger, Marguerite J. Ro, Joan McCord

Objective: This prospective study is focused on the characteristics leading to alcohol use disorders in early adulthood among a cohort of black children. The principal aim of this work is to examine the impact of educational attainment, school dropout and early school adaptation on the development of alcohol abuse and dependence in adulthood. Method: From a population that consisted of 1,242 first graders in 1966-67, a total of 953 were interviewed at age 32-33 about their current alcohol and drug use, educational attainment, employment and family situation. Results: Diagnoses of alcohol abuse and dependence were defined according to DSM-III-R criteria resulting in identification of 13.5% as having a lifetime alcohol use disorder. Early predictions of an alcohol use disorder in adulthood included early reports of underachievement in first grade by the child's teacher, dropping out of high school, whether the family set definite rules about school during adolescence, and how often the adolescent worked on homework with his/her family. Conclusions: The results suggest that educational achievement and some early adaptive behaviors in school are associated with risk for alcohol use disorders. The public health importance of the findings are discussed. (J. Stud. Alcohol 59: 318-326, 1998)