The number of biological parents with alcohol use disorder histories and risk to offspring through age 30

Addict Behav. 2020 Mar;102:106196. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106196. Epub 2019 Oct 31.


Objective: We investigated associations between the number of parents with histories of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and several offspring (proband) variables through age 30: occurrence of AUD and, separately, alcohol dependence; onset age of the initial AUD episode; time to recovery from the first AUD episode; number of distinct AUD episodes; and cumulative duration of AUD across episodes.

Methods: Offspring data were collected during four assessment waves of a longitudinal epidemiological study of psychiatric disorders with a regionally representative sample. The reference sample included 730 offspring with diagnostic data from at least one parent. Offspring were assessed with semi-structured diagnostic interviews between mid-adolescence and young adulthood and parents were assessed when offspring were approximately 24 years of age.

Results: As the number of parents with AUD increased, offspring risk for AUD and alcohol dependence also increased. Latent growth model results indicated that offspring AUD risk trajectories increase in severity as a function of the number of parents with AUD. This pattern of results was not observed for other AUD course-related features in offspring (i.e., number of distinct episodes; months required for recovery from initial episode; cumulative duration across episodes).

Conclusions: The number of parents with a history of AUD is associated with overall offspring risk for AUD and alcohol dependence and elevated AUD risk trajectories through age 30. The number of parents with AUD may be a more relevant risk factor for onset-related characteristics of AUD in offspring than for its longitudinal course.

Keywords: Alcohol use disorders (AUD); Clinical features; Number of parents; Parental AUD; Trajectories.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult