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A Personality for Alcohol Dependence

The findings from a long-term project about alcoholism and individuals who are affected by a family history of the disease, suggests particular personality traits could eventually lead to alcohol dependency.

Researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia compared personality differences of individuals from alcoholic homes to those from non-alcoholic environments. They then monitored the neuroticism and psychoticism levels of individuals from both groups.

The neuroticism scale measures characteristics such as anxiety, depression, guilt, shyness, moodiness and emotionality. The psychoticism scale measures traits related to aggression, egocentrism, impulsivity and anti-social behavior.

When the study began in 1987, individuals with family histories of alcoholism scored higher than their counterparts.

Over time and as participants in both groups aged, the researchers found an overall decrease in neuroticism and psychoticism levels. However, those from alcoholic homes maintained relatively higher levels of deviant behavioral and emotional traits during adult maturation.

“There are tremendous changes in personality from adolescence to adulthood,” comment the authors.

“We know that people become less neurotic as they get older. One of the things we looked at in this study was the degree of change and whether the gap closes or people maintain those differences. What we find are decreases in neuroticism and psychoticism as people age, but the levels are still higher for people with family histories of alcoholism. Everybody becomes more emotionally stable, but the differences are still maintained.”

Another goal was to track personality changes after participants affected by the disease moved out of such environments.

When the study began, the median age of participants was 18. Initially, 489 signed up for the study; 389 currently participate. The participants were selected during their freshman year at MU. They completed alcoholism screening tests which measured paternal and maternal drinking habits.

Following interviews, they were categorized as either having a family history of alcoholism or not. Participants were assessed during each of the first four years. Follow-ups were conducted during years seven and 11 – with the most recent providing information for Sher’s current discovery.

The study, “Family History of Alcoholism and the Stability of Personality in Young Adulthood,” has been published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia

A Personality for Alcohol Dependence

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). A Personality for Alcohol Dependence. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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