Background and aimsResearch on adolescent predictors of later alcohol misuse is typically conducted on samples of singletons, and associations may be confounded by between-family differences. To address potential confounding, we applied a co-twin comparison design to evaluate whether differences between co-twins in a wide array of adolescent risk factors predicted differences in young adult alcohol misuse.
DesignLongitudinal study in which associations between characteristics of the sample as adolescents were used to predict young adult alcohol misuse in individual-level analyses and co-twin comparisons.
ParticipantsA total of 3402 individuals (1435 complete twin pairs; 36% monozygotic; 57% female) from the FinnTwin12 study.
MeasurementsThe young adult alcohol misuse outcome was a composite score of alcohol use and intoxication frequency. Adolescent predictors included factor scores representing academic performance, substance use, externalizing problems, internalizing problems, peer environment, physical health and relationship with parents; and single measures tapping alcohol expectancies, life events and pubertal development.
FindingsIn individual-level analyses, individuals with higher adolescent substance use, externalizing problems, time with friends, peer deviance, sports involvement, sleeping difficulties, parental discipline, positive alcohol expectancies and difficulty of life events reported higher alcohol misuse in young adulthood (Ps < 0.019, R2 = 0.0003-0.0310%). Conversely, those with higher adolescent internalizing problems, parent-child relationship quality and time with parents reported lower alcohol misuse (Ps < 0021, R2 = 0.0018-0.0093%). The associations with adolescent substance use and alcohol expectancies remained significant in co-twin comparisons (Ps < 0.049, R2 = 0.0019-0.0314%). Further, academic performance emerged as a significant predictor, such that individuals with higher grades compared with their co-twin reported higher young adult alcohol misuse (Ps < 0.029, R2 = 0.0449-0.0533%).
ConclusionsAdolescent substance use, positive alcohol expectancies and higher academic performance appear to be robust predictors of later alcohol misuse.