OBJECTIVE: This study seeks to clarify the nature of the association between five well-studied late childhood predictors and alcohol-related behaviors in adolescence.
METHOD: We examined, in 7,168 subjects from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), using linear probability and marginal structural models, the association between parental alcohol problems, peer group deviance, antisocial behavior, and low parental monitoring, and sensation seeking assessed at multiple times from ages 12.5 to 18 years and heavy episodic drinking and alcohol problems at ages 16.5, 17.5, and 20 years.
RESULTS: Based on the pattern of the attenuation in the association with heavy episodic drinking and alcohol problems from the linear probability to marginal structural models, our five factors were divisible into three groups. For parental alcohol problems, no substantial attenuation was seen. For peer group deviance and antisocial behavior, the associations in the marginal structural models were modestly attenuated (10%-20%). By contrast, for low parental monitoring and sensation seeking, moderate attenuations of 41% and 35%, respectively, were observed.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that all or nearly all of the association between parental alcohol problems and heavy episodic drinking and alcohol problems in mid to late adolescence is causal. For peer group deviance and antisocial behavior, the large majority of the associations appear to be causal, but confounding influences are also present. However, for low parental monitoring and sensation seeking, our findings suggest that a substantial proportion of the observed association with alcohol outcomes reflects confounding rather than causal influences.