Children who deal with divorce, abuse or certain other hardships may be more likely than their peers to start drinking at a young age, a U.S. study suggests.
The study, of nearly 3,600 Americans ages 18 to 39, found that those who’d gone through certain negative experiences as a child were more likely to have started drinking before age 15.
The experiences specifically linked to early drinking were physical abuse, sexual abuse, living with a mentally ill family member, substance abuse in the home, and parents’ divorce or separation.
The findings, reported in the journal Pediatrics, add to evidence that negative childhood experiences are related to early drinking.
What’s new is that they point to specific circumstances that may be especially problematic, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Emily F. Rothman of the Boston University School of Public Health.
They found that adults who reported any of those five childhood experiences were more likely not only to drink early, but to drink specifically to cope with their problems.
Drinking early, especially as a way to manage stress, could shape a person’s drinking patterns for a lifetime, the researchers note — possibly raising the risk of alcohol dependence in adulthood.
The study involved a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults who were either current or former drinkers. They were surveyed about various adverse childhood experiences, the age at which they started drinking and the reasons that they typically drank during that first year.
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