Behavioral outcomes among children of alcoholics during the early and middle childhood years: familial subtype variations

L I Puttler, R A Zucker, H E Fitzgerald, C R Bingham
Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research 1998, 22 (9): 1962-72
This study examined early behavioral outcomes among young children of alcoholics (COAs) as a function of differences in subtype of paternal alcoholism. Participants were 212 children (106 girls and 106 boys, ages 3 through 8) and both of their biological parents. Families were characterized as antisocial alcoholics, nonantisocial alcoholics, and nonalcoholic controls. There were significant familial subtype group differences on parent report measures of children's total behavior problems, externalizing behavior, and internalizing behavior, and on measures of children's intellectual functioning and academic achievement. In all instances, COAs had poorer functioning than controls. In the behavior problem domain, but not for the domain of intellectual functioning, children from antisocial alcoholic families had greater problems than children from nonantisocial alcoholic families. In addition to the subtype effects, boys had higher levels of behavior problems than girls in all three areas, and older children had more internalizing problems than younger children. Maternal functioning pertaining to lifetime alcohol problem involvement and antisocial behavior also contributed to child subtype differences in internalizing behavior. Results indicate that, even at very early ages, male and female COAs are heterogeneous populations that are distinguishable by way of familial subtype membership, as well as distinguishable from their non-COA peers. Thus, findings underscore the need to consider the heterogeneity of alcoholism when looking at its effects on child development.

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