Effects of familial and non-familial warmth during childhood and adolescence on sexual-orientation disparities in alcohol use trajectories and disorder during emerging adulthood

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2019 Dec 1;205:107643. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.107643. Epub 2019 Oct 18.


Background: We investigated sexual-orientation differences in typologies of self-reported familial and non-familial warmth in childhood (before age 11) and adolescence (ages 11-17); and tested whether warmth explained sexual minority emerging adults' (ages 18-25) heightened odds of having heavier alcohol use trajectories (AUTs) and heightened risk for past-year alcohol use disorder (AUD) compared to completely heterosexuals.

Methods: Using self-reported data from the U.S.-based Growing Up Today Study cohort, latent class analyses identified typologies of familial and non-familial warmth during childhood and adolescence. Multivariable regression models tested our objectives.

Results: Six warmth classes emerged, including: High-High (i.e., high familial and high non-familial warmth, respectively); High-Moderate; Moderate-Moderate; Moderate-Occasional; Occasional-Occasional; and Low-Low. Among women, sexual minorities had higher odds than completely heterosexuals of being in the Moderate-Moderate, Moderate-Occasional, and Occasional-Occasional versus the High-High warmth class. There were not significant associations between sexual orientation and warmth classes for men. Lower warmth classes were generally associated with greater past-year AUD, and mediated heightened disparities in AUD for sexual minority women versus completely heterosexual women (4.3% mediated), but not among men. Warmth classes were generally unassociated with AUTs, and did not mediate sexual-orientation differences in AUTs.

Conclusions: Lower warmth was associated with greater alcohol-related problems, but not alcohol use itself. Warmth explained a small proportion of AUD disparities for sexual minority women-but not for men.

Keywords: Alcohol use disorders; Alcohol use trajectories; Cohort study; Emerging adulthood; Sexual orientation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / enzymology
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Family Relations / psychology*
  • Female
  • Heterosexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Report
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Young Adult