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Personality Traits in Toddlers May Predict Teen Drinking


Teen drinking is a dangerous phenomenon that has been explained away by external social factors for years. However, new research suggests that there may be a correlation between personality traits in early childhood and teen drinking. This is especially useful information to healthcare providers, educators, and caregivers, as it helps to give them an awareness of groups of children that may be at-risk for developing risky drinking patters during adolescence and better form prevention programs. Teen drinkers are highly susceptible to a number of negative consequences, such as health and legal problems, so new information concerning at-risk youth is always helpful in forming comprehensive prevention programs.

Associate professor Danielle Dick of Virginia Commonwealth University and her team used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to determine what personality traits may be correlated to underage drinking (Nauert). This study followed 12,647 children—6,504 boys and 6,143 girls—born between April 1991 and December 1992 by assessing temperamental characteristics six times from the child being six months old to almost six years old (Associated Foreign Press). They then followed up with these kids about their alcohol consumption when they were 15 ½ years old. While only 4,600 teens provided information about their alcohol use, scientists were able to extrapolate results where data was missing (Poppick). What they found was that there were two distinct sets of personality traits that seemed to predict alcohol abuse in adolescence, these being kids with emotional instability and low sociability as well as kids who showed a high degree of extroversion (Associated Foreign Press). These personality traits proved to be influential even after scientists controlled for social and demographic factors, as well as for any parental alcohol abuse (Nauert).

This is important information because it eliminates the idea that “drinking during adolescence is largely a social phenomenon” and provides a new set of characteristics that may identify at-risk youth (Associated Foreign Press). Teen drinking results in a host of negative consequences, from fatal car crashes to developing alcoholism later in life. Approximately 5,000 people under the age of 21 die annually from alcohol-related injuries – 38 percent of these deaths being from vehicle crashes, 32 percent from homicides, and 6 percent from suicide (Negative Consequences Of Underage Drinking).

Additionally, 40 percent of fatal, alcohol-related car crashes involve teenagers (Effects of Teenage Drinking). The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that teens who begin drinking before they are 15 are about four times as likely to develop alcoholism as compared to those who didn’t begin drinking before the age of 21 (Effects of Teenage Drinking). Even excluding the possibility of developing alcoholism or being involved in a fatal car crash, teen drinking can result in abnormal brain functions and damaged nerve tissues.

Previous research has found that teen drinking negatively impacts attention span in the ability of both males and females to interpret and understand visual information (Trudeau). In all of these circumstances, teen drinking results in negative consequences – death, alcoholism, brain damage, and a host of medical and legal issues in between.

By understanding that characteristics of toddlers may predict a future group of at-risk adolescents, scientists, health providers, and parents can begin to work together to form comprehensive prevention programs. Whether the issue is alcoholism or a car crash, the best solution is to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place. This study opens the door for scientists to further investigate questions, as well as providing proof that ‘problem kids’ are not the only ones who are an at-risk group. Rather, children who exhibit personality traits at both ends of the sociability spectrum are at a higher risk than their peers for developing dangerous drinking habits during adolescence.


Works Cited

Associated Foreign Press. “Toddler personality traits may predict whether kids become teen drinkers: study.” 11 July 2013. NY Daily News. Web. 12 July 2013.

“Effects of Teenage Drinking.” n.d. Learn About Alcoholism. Web. 12 July 2013.

Nauert, Rick. “Early Childhood Personality May Predict Teen Alcohol Abuse.” 12 July 2013. PsychCentral. Web. 12 July 2013.

“Negative Consequences Of Underage Drinking.” 14 May 2012. Too Smart To Start. Web. 12 July 2013.

Poppick, Laura. “Toddler Personality Traits May Predict Alcohol Use During Teenage Years.” 10 July 2013. Huffington Post. Web. 12 July 2013.

Trudeau, Michelle. “Teen Drinking May Cause Irreversible Brain Damage.” 25 January 2010. NPR. Web. 12 July 2013.


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Written by

A native New Yorker, Bre loves the California scene and writing for Treatment4Addiction. She has been writing content for T4A for five months, and loves to learn new things, form opinions, and send them out to the world. Her interests include dance, singing, acting, talking with friends, being a daughter, and being the best big sister she can to her 16 year old brother. After attending ASU for a few months, she is interested in taking cosmetology classes and exploring her options. She looks forward to learning all she can, and doing something positive with that knowledge and experience.

Filed under: Addiction, Alcohol and Drugs · Tags: personality traits, prevention programs, teen drinking, teenage drinking is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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