Adolescent alcohol expectancies in offspring from families at high risk for developing alcoholism

Sa Shen, Jeannette Locke-Wellman, Shirley Y. Hill

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Objective: The present study investigated alcohol expectancies derived from the Alcohol Expectancy Questionnaire (AEQ) in parents and their adolescent offspring. It was of interest to determine whether alcohol expectancies would differ by risk status, and whether those differences were influenced by parental beliefs. Method: Children/adolescents aged 8 to 18, from families at high risk for developing alcoholism (n = 69; 37 males) and from low-risk control families (n = 46; 25 males), were evaluated annually. At every assessment, each child and one parent were administered the AEQ and interviewed to determine drinking status. Data for two time points approximately 3 years apart were analyzed. Results: In early adolescence, high-risk offspring expected more improvement in social functioning when under the influence of alcohol than did low-risk controls. However, by age 16, risk group differences were not seen. Higher scores on two of the AEQ scales (Social Behavior and Relaxation) predicted the age of onset for regular drinking, whereas one scale (Social Behavior) predicted drinking behavior. In addition, high-risk offspring were found to have beliefs about the effects of alcohol that were similar to those of their parents, in contrast to low-risk offspring and their parents, who displayed significant negative correlations. Conclusions: This report confirms previous studies relating alcohol expectancies to drinking behavior (frequency, quantity per occasion, social consequences). Alcohol expectancies also were found to predict the age of onset to begin regular drinking in the combined group of adolescents studied, although risk differences in age of onset were not influenced by differing expectations concerning the effects of alcohol. These results suggest that the risk differences in expectancies that were seen in young adolescents (approximately age 13) may be due to the transmission of parental beliefs to their offspring. The absence of risk differences by late adolescence (approximately age 16) suggests that other factors (e.g., peer influences or experience drinking alcohol) also play a role.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)763-772
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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