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Genetic Influences on Vulnerability to, and Protective Factors for, Adolescent Drinking

  • Elizabeth A. Siewert (a1), Michael C. Stallings (a2) and John K. Hewitt (a3)

Abstract

Using behavioral genetic analyses, we investigated and present a possible relationship between adolescent alcohol use and six domains of common problem behaviors in a community-based sample of 633 twin pairs who were under the legal drinking age of 21 (mean age = 15.0 years). The underlying etiology of the six problem behavioral domains, classified as conduct problems, hyperactivity, school problems, low self-esteem, neuroticism, and social withdrawal, was previously described (Siewert et al., 2003) as two heritable and genetically distinct dimensions of problem behavior. We took the two best-fitting models from that study (one that proposed a generalized behavior problem factor along with an internalizing behavior factor, and one that proposed an externalizing behavior factor along with an internalizing behavior factor) and extended the analyses in this study to include an index of alcohol use. Our results suggest that there is a strong genetic relationship between adolescent alcohol use and a broad spectrum of both externalizing and internalizing behavioral problems. The individual who seems to be at risk for either generalized or specifically externalizing behavioral problems is also at risk for adolescent alcohol use. However, the individual who exhibits internalizing problem behaviors appears to be protected from adolescent alcohol use. We propose that adolescent alcohol consumption needs to be understood in the context of these genetically influenced externalizing and internalizing propensities.

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Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: John Hewitt, Institute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado, 447 UCB, Boulder, Colorado, 80309-0447, USA.

Genetic Influences on Vulnerability to, and Protective Factors for, Adolescent Drinking

  • Elizabeth A. Siewert (a1), Michael C. Stallings (a2) and John K. Hewitt (a3)

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