Behavioural outcomes among children of alcoholics during the early and middle childhood years

This study examined early behavioural outcomes among young children of alcoholics (COA) as a function of differences in subtype of paternal alcoholism. Participants were 212 children (106 girls and 106 boys, ages 3 through 8) and both of their biological parents. Families were characterised as antisocial alcoholics, non-antisocial alcoholics, and non-alcoholic control. There were significant familial subtype group differences on parent reporting measures of children’s total behaviour problems, externalizing behaviour, internalizing behaviour, and on measures of children’s intellectual functions and academic achievement. In all instances, COAs had poorer functioning controls. In the behaviour problem domain, but not for the domain of intellectual functioning, children from antisocial alcoholic families had problems than children from nonantisocial alcoholic families. In addition subtype effects, boys had higher levels of behaviour problems than girls in three areas, and older children had more internalizing problems than younger children. Maternal functioning pertaining to lifetime alcohol problem involvement and antisocial behaviour also contributed to child subtype differences in internalizing behaviour. Results indicate that, even at very ages, male and female COAs are heterogeneous populations that are distinguishable by way of familial subtype membership, as well as distinguishable from their non-COA peers. Thus, findings underscore the need to consider the heterogeneity of alcoholism when looking at its effects on development.

Source: Puttler LI, et al Department of Psychiatry,Alcohol Research Centre, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, USA
Published in Alcohol Clin. Exp. Research Dec. 22 (9):1962-72. 1988

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