This paper reviews some recent developments concerning the role of genetic factors in alcoholism. The accumulated evidence suggests that genetic factors do play an important role in determining the alcoholism risk. However, the search for the specific genetic influences operating in this disorder is complicated by the existence of genetic heterogeneity, the absence of simple Mendelian models, and the impact of environmental factors in producing the final level of risk. After reviewing the complexities existing in this area, the author describes the efforts of his own research group to investigate the biological and genetically controlled risk factors at work in alcoholism. Through an ongoing longitudinal evaluation of sons of alcoholics and controls, the author's group has identified the potentially genetically influenced attribute of relatively low levels of sensitivity to an alcohol challenge as an important risk factor for the subsequent development of alcoholism.