We use findings from the behavior genetics literature about how genetic factors (latently) influence alcohol dependence and related disorders to develop and test hypotheses about the risk associated with a specific gene, GABRA2, across different developmental stages. This gene has previously been associated with adult alcohol dependence in the Collaborative Study of the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) sample [Edenberg, H. J., Dick, D. M., Xuei, X., Tian, H., Almasy, L., Bauer, L. O., Crowe, R., Goate, A., Hesselbrock, V., Jones, K. A., Kwon, J., Li, T. K., Nurnberger Jr., J. I., O'Connor, S. J., Reich, T., Rice, J., Schuckit, M., Porjesz, B., Foroud, T., and Begleiter, H. (2004). Am. J. Hum. Genet. 74:705-714] and other studies [Covault, J., Gelernter, J., Hesselbrock, V., Nellissery, M., and Kranzler, H. R. (2004). Am. J. Med. Genet. B Neuropsychiatr. Genet. 129B:104-109; Lappalainen, J., Krupitsky, E., Remizov, M., Pchelina, S., Taraskina, A., Zvartau, E., Somberg, L. K., Covault, J., Kranzler, H. R., Krystal, J., and Gelernter, J. (2005). Alcohol. Clin. Exp. Res. 29:493-498]. In a sample of children and adolescents ascertained as part of the COGA project, we find that GABRA2 is significantly associated with childhood conduct disorder symptoms, but not with childhood alcohol dependence symptoms. A consistent elevation in risk for alcohol dependence associated with GABRA2 is not evident until the mid-20s and then remains throughout adulthood. GABRA2 is also associated with other drug dependence in our sample, both in adolescence and adulthood.