Alcohol Use Initiation is Associated with Changes in Personality Trait Trajectories

Daniel Blonigen, Emily Durbin, Brian Hicks, Wendy Johnson, Matt McGue, William Iacono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Recent work has demonstrated the co-development of personality traits and alcohol use characteristics from early adolescence to young adulthood. Few studies, however, have tested whether alcohol use initiation impacts trajectories of personality over this time period. We examined the effect of alcohol use initiation on personality development from early adolescence to young adulthood.
Methods: Participants were male (nmen = 2,350) and female (nwomen = 2,618) twins and adoptees from three community-based longitudinal studies conducted at the Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research. Data on personality traits of Positive Emotionality (PEM; Well-being), Negative Emotionality (NEM; Stress Reaction, Alienation, and Aggression), and Constraint (CON; Control and Harm Avoidance) – assessed via the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ) – and age of first drink were collected for up to four waves spanning ages 10 to 32.
Results: Alcohol use initiation was associated with significant decreases in levels of Well-being and CON traits, most notably Control; and significant increases in levels of all NEM traits, particularly Aggression. In general, the effects of alcohol use initiation on personality traits were moderated by gender and enhanced among those with earlier age of first drink.
Conclusions: From early adolescence to young adulthood, alcohol use initiation predicts deviations from normative patterns of personality maturation. Such findings offer a potential mechanism underlying the co-development of personality traits and alcohol use characteristics during this formative period of development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2163-2170
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Volume39
Issue number11
Early online date30 Sep 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015

Keywords

  • personality traits
  • alcohol use initiation
  • adolescence
  • young adulthood

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