Effects of Excessive Alcohol Use on Antisocial Behavior Across Adolescence and Early Adulthood

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017 Oct;56(10):857-865. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2017.07.781. Epub 2017 Aug 3.


Objective: Antisocial behavior (ASB) decreases with age in most of the population; however, excessive alcohol use can inhibit the desistance process. This study investigated whether excessive early drinking might slow a young person's overall pattern of crime desistance compared with that of others ("between-person effects") and whether short-term increases in alcohol consumption might result in short-term increases in ASB ("within-person effects").

Method: Frequency of ASB and typical alcohol consumption were assessed repeatedly in young people 15 to 21 years old in a population-based birth cohort (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children). Longitudinal trajectories showed ASB decreasing and alcohol use increasing across adolescence, which stabilized in adulthood. The parallel growth model was re-parameterized to simultaneously estimate the person-specific (or "between-person") and time-specific (or "within-person") influences of alcohol on ASB.

Results: Typical alcohol consumption by young people 15 years old was positively associated with ASB cross-sectionally and into young adulthood (i.e., there were between-person effects of initial levels of alcohol consumption on initial [b 1.64, standard error 0.21; p < .001] and final [b 0.53, standard error 0.14; p < .001] levels of ASB). Within-person effects also were identified in early adulthood (b 0.06, standard error 0.02; p = .001), showing that when a young person reported consuming more alcohol than normal across the past year, that person also reported engaging in higher than usual levels of ASB.

Conclusion: The results are consistent with between- and within-person effects of excessive alcohol use on ASB desistence. Future research should further investigate this relation by investigating pathways into excessive alcohol use and ASB in adolescence.

Keywords: Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children; alcohol consumption; antisocial behavior; between-person effect; within-person effect.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Problem Behavior / psychology*
  • Young Adult