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The Relationships of a Family History of Alcohol Dependence, a Low Level of Response to Alcohol and Six Domains of Life Functioning to the Development of Alcohol Use Disorders

Marc A. Schuckit, Tom L. Smith

Objective: Numerous biological and sociocultural factors have been proposed as potentially important to the risk for alcohol use disorders. This study evaluates the relationships to alcohol abuse or dependence of several additional potential trait and state characteristics when studied in the context of a family history of alcohol dependence (FH) and the level of response (LR) to alcohol. Method: Data were generated from the successful 15-year follow-up of 97% of 453 sons of alcohol dependent men and controls; of these, 315 men were appropriate for the current analyses. Personal interviews were used to gather data from the subjects and additional informants to study the relationships among FH, LR as determined 15 years previously, and retrospective ratings over the recent 15 years for six additional domains of life functioning. These were evaluated as correlates of a diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder in both a 3-step hierarchical and a 7-step structured series of regressions for the subjects with complete data. Results: LR, FH and measures from all of the domains except stress had significant zero-order correlations with alcohol abuse or dependence. The hierarchical regression revealed that LR and FH remained significant when considered in the context of the five remaining domains. Both trait-like characteristics (behavioral undercontrol, alcohol expectancies and ways of coping) and state-like domains (nurturance in the social support system and the amount of drinking in the environment) added significantly to the analyses. A heuristic model of the relationship among these variables was tested in a structured series of regressions with a final R² of 0.22. Future prospective study of the offspring of these subjects will help evaluate potential causal implications of these findings. Conclusions: Prospective studies, measuring both biological and environmental factors, are needed for optimal understanding of the performance of such characteristics in real-life conditions. (J. Stud. Alcohol 61: 827-835, 2000)