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Psychiatric symptoms and deviance in early adolescence predict heavy alcohol use 3 years later

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Objective. The aim of this study was to discover whether the heavy use of alcohol in adolescence is associated with earlier psychiatric symptoms and deviance, gender, family structure and socio-economic situation of the family (SES). Methods. Questionnaires designed to reveal psychiatric symptoms and deviance were filled in by parents (Rutter A2 Scale), teachers (Rutter B2 Scale) and the children themselves (CDI) at the age of 12 years. The Rutter scales are behaviourally orientated questionnaires, and the CDI is a self-report of depression. Information concerning alcohol use was obtained from the children at the age of 15 years. Results. Both male and female heavy users of alcohol had more commonly displayed externalizing behaviour and hyperactivity at school 3 years earlier than had their same-sex peers. Furthermore, female heavy users in particular had displayed hyperactivity at home. The probability that a boy who used alcohol excessively at the age of 15 years had already been deviant 3 years earlier was increased on the teachers' scale, and that of a girl was increased on the CDI. Logistic regression analysis using parent-assessed symptoms and self-reported depressive symptoms showed that externalizing behaviours and depression were the factors predicting the heavy use of alcohol in adolescence when gender, SES and family structure were controlled. When teacher-assessed symptoms and self-reported symptoms were used, externalizing behaviour predicted heavy alcohol use at the age of 15 years when gender, SES and family structure were controlled. Conclusions. Children with behavioural deviance and depression are at risk of later excessive alcohol use. Further research is warranted to determine whether psychiatric treatment could reduce the risk of future heavy alcohol use.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland

Publication date: 2000-12-01

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