Interplay between perceived friend environments and genetics on trajectories of alcohol use across adolescence

Date of Award

August 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Aesoon Park


adolescence, alcohol, ALSPAC, friends, gene-environment interaction

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


While alcohol use increases normatively across adolescence, research has also identified subgroups of adolescents whose drinking follows distinct patterns, or trajectories, over time. Associations of friend environments with adolescent drinking are particularly salient and well documented. However, it remains unknown whether associations of friend environments with adolescent drinking trajectories are modulated by genetics. The current investigation examined interactive associations of genetics (i.e., composite genetic risk scores of genes associated with alcohol use in a recent genome-wide association study) and adolescents’ perceived friend drinking and disruptive behavior at age 15 with membership in drinking frequency trajectories from ages 16 to 20 within a longitudinal, population-based cohort. Genetic risk scores modulated associations of perceived friend drinking (but not friend disruptive behavior) on likelihood of following a moderately high, slightly increasing trajectory (the Middle-High class) relative to a stable low use trajectory (the Low class; OR = 0.55[0.34,0.87], p = .01). Specifically, perceived friend drinking was more strongly associated with likelihood of belonging to the Middle-High relative to Low class among adolescents carrying low compared to high genetic risks. Findings represent a novel identification of polygenic modulation in friend environmental associations with adolescent drinking trajectories.


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