Alcohol Use and Conduct Disorder in Adolescence Predicts Antisocial Behavior

Adult antisocial behavior (ASB) has been studied extensively in recent years. Determining the factors that contribute to and predict the onset of ASB is essential in order to identify those most at risk. In existing research, links between ASB and adolescent and childhood conduct disorder (CD) have been found. Early-onset alcohol abuse (EOAA) has been shown to be a risk factor for both as well. However, little research has looked at the direct influence of EOAA on CD and subsequent ASB. Youth with CD tend to demonstrate signs of early ASB, such as defiance, isolation, violent behavior, and risk taking. They also are more prone to substance and alcohol use at an early age. Because there is little concrete research exploring the effects of EOAA on CD and ASB, Najat Khalifa of the University of Nottingham in England recently led a study that looked specifically at that relationship.

Khalifa assessed 100 male participants and found that those with both CD and EOAA had the highest rates of ASB and borderline personality issues. The findings also revealed that individuals with either CD or EOAA had a higher risk of ASB than individuals with no history of either. Khalifa added, “Those with co-occurring CD with EOAA, compared with those showing only CD, showed more violence in their criminal history and greater recreational drug use.” These results have significant clinical implications. Specifically, children and adolescents who exhibit conduct problems should be educated about the dangers of EOAA and targeted for treatments that will reduce the likelihood of future substance misuse. In addition, neurological impairments caused by EOAA could provide further insight into the link between EOAA and CD, and EOAA, CD, and ASB. Future work should be devoted to exploring the effects of EOAA on neurological functioning in young adults at risk for CD and EOAA.

Khalifa, N., Duggan, C., Howard, R., Lumsden, J. (2012). The relationship between childhood conduct disorder and adult antisocial behavior is partially mediated by early-onset alcohol abuse. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027017

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  • Ernie


    August 30th, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    This is something thhat any parent has to be on the lookout for. Children with behavioral problems are more likely to grow up to be adults with behavioral and then criminal problems, and that’s a fact. If you ignore this when they are kids, then you are setting them up for a lifetime of poor behavior, poor choices, and probably a sad outlook on life as a whole.

  • Brooklyn


    August 30th, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    Well, I agree that the children need to be educated about the dangers of substance misuse, but shouldn;’t the parents have a little culpability here too? I mean, the last time I checked, that’s a job of parents, to make sure that their kids are abiding by the law and not out making those foolish mistakes that will follow them for life. I realize that there will come a time when the kids DO have to take responsibility for the decisions they make, but that doesn’t mean that the parents need to sit back and leave it all up to them. Parents, it’s our job to step in and step up to the plate when we sense that there is a problem. This is not the time for the wait and see attitude that is so prevalent today.

  • jerome


    August 30th, 2012 at 11:47 PM

    what adolescent do often dictates how they will turn out to be in their adult lives.thats not such a bad thing because it gives us an opportunity to identify and correct those things.and yes,I completely agree that parents have a role to play in this.

  • Layla


    August 31st, 2012 at 3:57 AM

    How can children so young be labeled with adult anti social behavior issues? That seesm unfair and honestly too young; surely their characteristics are different from what we see in adults with this type of behavior. And is it really wise to set them up this early in life with this kind of label and pre fab model for bad behavior and decisions for life?

  • wallace


    August 31st, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    its better to guide and help children when they are young than to just let them be and throw it all away.It is for their benefit that any caring parent would want to do this.

  • stressmom


    September 1st, 2012 at 6:12 AM

    antisocial behavior alone could be enough of a catalyst to drive someone to drink abusively, especially if they are trying to hide the pain that they are feeling.

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