Prevalence, Predictors, and Consequences of Alcohol Use from Childhood to Midlife

Start Date: 2011

Based on a life course developmental perspective, this research study proposes to use primary and secondary longitudinal data from three ongoing nationally representative birth cohort studies (born 2001, 1970, 1958; each n >10,000) to examine prevalence, predictors, and consequences of alcohol use from early adolescence through midlife.

Specific aims of this developmental epidemiological project are to:

  1. Examine variation in the prevalence of early alcohol initiation by conducting the first prospective national study of early alcohol use and attitudes starting in the age 11 survey of the 2001 Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), and testing theory-based hypotheses about child temperamental, cognitive, and family influences on early alcohol use in the MCS and the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS) with structural equation models;
  2. In the BCS and 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS), examine how changes in work, family, and civic social roles across adulthood predict fluctuations in alcohol use and problem drinking (Role Socialization hypothesis), using fixed effects models to control for stable unobserved effects; and
  3. Document long-term consequences of alcohol use for health and social roles in midlife (age 38/50 in BCS/NCDS) using propensity score models.

J-shaped associations are hypothesized in which light-to-moderate alcohol use (relative to abstaining and to heavy drinking) predicts greater midlife health and role success (Consequences hypothesis). Analyses addressing all aims will use multisource-parent, teacher, medical, cognitive, self- report-and multi-wave longitudinal data to control for child and adolescent social and personal capital (Selection hypothesis) and test whether observed effects are buffered for those with greater capital (Selection x Role Socialization, Selection x Consequences hypotheses).

The project will provide new and needed knowledge about the prevalence and developmental antecedents of early adolescent alcohol use and attitudes favorable and unfavorable to use, as well as about the long-term consequences of heavy alcohol use and problems in early to middle adulthood. Based on a developmental epidemiological approach, the project combines the advantages of large-scale prospective representative longitudinal survey research with the strengths of cutting-edge longitudinal methods for estimating the determinants and consequences of alcohol use across the life course. The work will lead to better targeting of populations, age groups, and risk and protective factors in preventions aimed at delaying onset, reducing underage drinking, and reducing alcohol abuse and dependence in adulthood.

Project Team

Jennifer Maggs, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator
Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
814 865 2028

Jeremy Staff, Ph.D.

Co-Principal Investigator
Associate Professor of Crime, Law, and Justice and Sociology