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Drinking Patterns in Mid-Adolescence and Psychosocial Outcomes in Late Adolescence and Early Adulthood

NCJ Number
Addiction Volume: 99 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2004 Pages: 1529-1541
J. Elisabeth E. Wells; L. John Horwood; David M. Fergusson
Date Published
December 2004
13 pages
This study describes drinking patterns at age 16 in a sample of New Zealand youth and links this to outcomes at 16-21 years and 21-25 years across a number of psychosocial domains.
A prospective birth cohort of 1,265 individuals participated in annual follow-up until age 16 and then at ages 18, 21, and 25 years old. Of 1,265 subjects, 953 were interviewed at age 16. Multiple measures of family background were performed from participants' birth to 16 years. Alcohol consumption was measured by frequency, usual or last quantity drunk, and most drunk per occasion. Problems were also identified. Questions regarding psychiatric symptoms complied with criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Data were obtained on educational outcomes, employment, sexual behaviors, and offending. Participants were distinguished by frequency of alcohol consumption, the typical amount consumed per occasion, the largest amount consumed on a single occasion, and the number of alcohol-related problems. The study found that the extent and pattern of drinking at age 16 was directly related to most alcohol outcomes in young adulthood. The amount of alcohol consumption and not just the frequency of consumption was a factor in later drinking patterns. There was some continuity in drinking behavior from the mid-teens through young adulthood, in that those with heavier consumption in their mid-teens tended to have heavier consumption or problems later. The continuity was more marked for ages 16 through 21, but was still present at 25 years old in terms of consumption, alcohol dependence, and drunk driving. In addition to alcohol outcomes, other outcomes specific to drinking at age 16 were the number of sexual partners and the presence of violent behavior. 4 tables and 42 references