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Individuals with a family history of alcoholism: Will they too become alcoholics?

  • Individuals with a family history of alcoholism (FH+) have a greater risk of developing alcoholism themselves than do persons with no family history.
  • FH+ individuals who are male and have behavioral disinhibition may have the greatest risk of developing alcoholism.
  • Researchers caution that these combined characteristics indicate a greater probability, not certainty, of developing alcoholism.

Previous research has shown that individuals with a family history of alcoholism (FH+) have a greater risk of developing alcoholism themselves than do persons with no such history (FH-). A study in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research has found that FH+ individuals who are male and have behavioral disinhibition have the greatest risk of developing alcoholism. However, a higher risk does not equate certainty.

"The development of alcoholism among individuals with a family history of alcoholism is about four to eight times more common than it is among individuals with no such family history," said William R. Lovallo, Director of the Behavioral Sciences Laboratories at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Oklahoma City and corresponding author for the study. "Although the definition of 'family history' is different according to different researchers, we define it as when either or both of the person's parents have had an alcohol problem."

"Prior research has shown that male gender and behavioral disinhibition are strong predictors of alcohol problems," added Peter R. Finn, professor of psychology at Indiana University, Bloomington. "Behavioral disinhibition reflects a general disposition characterized by an apparent insensitivity to punishment, an increased sensitivity to immediate rewards, a tendency to prefer immediate smaller rewards as opposed to larger long-term rewards, and a failure to consider and inhibit behavior when aversive consequences are likely. Those high in behavioral dis
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23-Apr-2006


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