Sorting out protective and risk factors

Here’s a study highlights how little we know about protective and risk factors:

The risky drinkers reported only slightly higher prevalence of experiencing child abuse or witnessing domestic violence compared to their non-risky drinking counterparts (see Table 1). However, those recruits who reported first drinking around 13 years were 5.5 times more likely to engage in riskier drinking behavior than recruits who reported first drinking after age 13. Other significant and anticipated predictors of young adult drinking were smoking, having a rural or small town background, having grown up with someone who was a problem drinker or having grown up with someone who suffered from mental illness. Some unexpected correlates of risky drinking were achieving a higher educational level, having more close family members or friends, and being raised by two parents.

…Young et al. (2006) provide support for the importance of age of onset to young adult drinking habits; however, they did not find adverse childhood experiences to be equally strong predictors of young adult drinking. Interestingly Young et al. (2006) noted that they did not expect to find that risky drinkers had a number of experiences that one might expect to be protective, such as, a higher number of close family and friends, a higher level of education, along with being slightly more likely to be raised by two parents. Young et al’s (2006) research shows that multiple and interactive factors, whether prototypically protective or detrimental, can be associated with harmful drinking behavior. The presence of protective childhood experiences does not guarantee a young adult life without substance abuse problems.

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