The effects of family history of alcoholism on the pattern of motivation for drinking and the level of consumption in young adult offspring

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


Ruth L. Wynn


alcohol use

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Social Work | Sociology


This study investigated the motivation for drinking and the level of consumption of alcohol in young adults in relation to the alcohol related problems in their families. The study further investigated the degree of negative motivation for drinking (stress-response dampening reasons) and the level of consumption in high-risk subjects (those having parents with alcoholism) compared with low-risk subjects (those having parents with no alcoholism). Alcohol related problems in the subjects' families were assessed on two levels: one, in subjects' parents and two, in the biologically related relatives (grandparents, aunts and uncles) on both parents' sides. Four hundred thirty-nine college students (239 males and 200 females) 18-23 years of age, participated in the study. Subjects completed the Parental Drinking Inventory-Father and Parental Drinking Inventory-Mother (parental version of MAST, PVOMAST), which measured symptoms of alcohol abuse in parents. The Alcoholism in the Biologically Related Relatives Inventory measured alcoholism in mother and father family lines (AMFFL); the Khavari Alcohol Test measured annual absolute alcohol intake (AAAI), and the Reasons for Drinking Questionnaire, which measured positive and negative motivations for drinking, (PMD and NMD).

The relations described among variables in the model appeared, for the most part relevant, but in different ways, to male and female subjects. The mothers' alcohol related problems, AMFFL, and NMD positively affected the level of consumption in male subjects. AMFFL positively affected the negative motivation for drinking in females. The study supported the hypothesis that high-risk subjects (identified by PVOMAST) have higher mean scores in NMD and higher mean scores in AAAI. The unexpected reversed relationship of the fathers' alcohol related problems to AAAI in males and the observed differences between males and females were discussed in the context of Cognitive-Social Learning Theory of Alcoholism and led to the view that they are, in most part, determined by environmental factors.


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