Academic journal article Alcohol Health & Research World

A Note about Life-Course Variation and the Development of Risk

Academic journal article Alcohol Health & Research World

A Note about Life-Course Variation and the Development of Risk

Article excerpt

The concept of risk refers to the statistical probability that a specific (usually negative) outcome will occur at a later date (Zucker 1989). Thus, when identifying risk characteristics for the later emergence of alcoholism among children, researchers understand that they are making a similar probability statement that-all other things being equal-a given pattern of influences will increase or decrease the probability of a later harmful outcome. The phrase "a pattern of influences" implies that a number of factors are present and that they must operate in concert, rather than in opposition, for the disorder to ultimately appear. Consequently, in families with alcoholism in which antisocial characteristics also are high, potential influences found in early childhood might include a heightened genetic vulnerability for alcoholism, a temperament that generates problematic responses from others, a rearing environment that may encourage problem alcohol use, and a family structure with conflict within its boundaries. Such influences, in turn, are related to the presence or absence of other psychiatric symptoms in one or both of the parents. The phrase "all other things being equal" refers to the fact that time passes, and as it does, other influences appear that also may affect outcome. As the child grows older, school provides another rearing environment, as do peer relationships outside the family. Social conditions do not always exacerbate problematic temperamental styles; they sometimes operate to dampen such behavior (Forehand and McMahon 1981). Only when these factors operate together are the outcomes likely to be of the highest risk, the greatest damage, and the earliest appearance of difficulty.

High-Risk Longitudinal Studies Tracking and understanding how risk factors operate together is a significant challenge. …

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