Background: It has been suggested earlier that parental loss could be an important risk factor for alcoholism in adulthood. We explored the association between different types of childhood families with later alcohol-related problems of the offspring, in particular drunk driving.
Methods: We used a large, prospectively collected general population birth cohort database (n = 10,934), the Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort. Linked with the National crime register, it provided information on drunk driving offenses known to the police that involved persons 15 to 32 years of age (n = 432). Type of family was categorized into five subgroups: two-parent family and four types of single-parent families (single-parent all the time, single-parent at birth, parental death, parental divorce). The information about family type was obtained from questionnaires given to the mothers during mid-pregnancy and at the time of the 14-year follow-up.
Results: Single-parent family during childhood significantly increased the risk of drunk driving in adulthood among both males and females. Males who were born in single-mother families were at the highest risk of drunk driving offenses in adulthood (adjusted OR 2.4; 95% CI 1.4-4.2). The association between single-parent family and drunk driving among males was seen in all types of single-parent families except for parental death.
Conclusions: Results suggest that growing up in a single-parent family is a potentially powerful predictor of adult alcohol-related problems, i.e., early-onset, late-onset, and recidivistic drunk driving.