Children of alcoholics exhibit attenuated cognitive impairment during an ethanol challenge

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1999 Mar;23(3):476-82.


In an attempt to identify markers potentially related to the development of problem drinking, we examined cognitive functioning in children of alcoholics (COAs) and children of nonalcoholics, both while sober and after consuming 0.85 ml/kg of ethanol. Consonant with previous research indicating that COAs exhibit less intense responses to alcohol, we predicted that COAs would experience attenuated cognitive deficits while intoxicated. Male (n = 71) and female (n = 29) college students completed tests of contextual and rote memory recall in a repeated-measures design. Findings indicated that intoxication impaired both memory and attentional capacities, and that COAs exhibited attenuated cognitive deficits relative to children of nonalcoholics. Results were consistent with previous research demonstrating attenuated responses to alcohol in COAs. Potential mechanisms for the pathogenesis of problem drinking are discussed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Risk Factors


  • Ethanol