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Your Toddler's Personality Reveals if They'll Become Teen Drinkers One Day, Study Finds

Update Date: Jul 13, 2013 01:29 AM EDT

Concerned that your child may one day turn into a heavy drinker? New research finds a correlation between children's behavior and their drinking habits as teens.

The study, which was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, analyzed thousands of children in South West England from birth through 15 years. The dataset included personality information given from mothers during the first five years of the child's life and from both parents and the subjects thereafter.

"People don't enter adolescence as blank slates; they have a history of life experiences that they bring with them, dating back to early childhood," said Danielle Dick, a psychologist from at Virginia Commonwealth University in the US and a co-author of the study. "This is one of the most comprehensive attempts to understand very early childhood predictors of adolescent alcohol use in a large epidemiological cohort." 

Danielle Dick and her team used data from the U.K.'s Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a large epidemiological sample of pregnant women with delivery dates between April 1991 and December 1992. Temperamental characteristics were assessed at six time points from six months to nearly six years of age on 6,504 boys and 6,143 girls. Alcohol use and problems were assessed at age 15.5 years.

"This underscores the fact that drinking during adolescence is largely a social phenomenon," she added. "However, this doesn't mean it's less problematic; we know from other studies that most adolescent drinking is high risk - for example, binge drinking - and can lead to numerous negative consequences."

Meanwhile, other researchers that did not participate in the study said it was a signifcant step forward, but warn the results are still not solid enough to accurately predict teenage alcohol use from an early age.

"While I think the most important finding concerns tracing personality differences back to preschool differences in temperament, we cannot, from these findings, predict with much accuracy which preschoolers will have problems with alcohol as adolescents and which will not," Matt McGue, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, said in a statement. McGue was not involved in the study.

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