OBJECTIVE: The effects of childhood exposure to parental problem
drinking remain unclear because of inconsistent findings and methodologic
difficulties in previous studies. The authors used a large community sample
to examine whether exposure to parental problem drinking in childhood was
related to a greater number of psychiatric symptoms and impaired social and
occupational functioning in adulthood. METHOD: The study used self-report
data from the Piedmont Health Survey, a project of the Epidemiologic
Catchment Area program, which were collected from a stratified random
sample of 2,936 adults residing in a five-county catchment area in North
Carolina. The National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview
Schedule was used to measure the subjects' lifetime psychiatric symptoms.
Social and occupational functioning were assessed with two scales measuring
social support, a scale measuring occupational prestige, and an
occupational problem index. Regression analyses were used to determine
whether exposure to parental problem drinking in childhood was associated
with adverse psychosocial outcomes in adulthood. RESULTS: Adults who had
been exposed to parental problem drinking in childhood were more likely to
manifest psychiatric symptoms and marital instability, but they showed no
difference from the rest of the sample in occupational functioning.
CONCLUSIONS: Exposure to parental problem drinking in childhood is
positively associated with specific adverse effects in adulthood even after
controlling for other confounding childhood risk factors.