Research designs to study alcohol use and abuse have included twin, adoption and family history/high risk studies. Results have consistently implied a genetic factor in the aetiology of alcohol abuse. However, less research has been conducted in search of environmental factors. This study uses kinship structure in a large national dataset (the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth) to estimate (using DeFries–Fulker analysis) the extent of the shared genetic, non-shared genetic, shared environmental and non-shared environmental influences on alcohol use. The NLSY kinship sample contained 3890 pairs of cousins, half-siblings, full-siblings and twins between the ages of 14 and 21 in the initial year of the survey (1979). Estimates of heritability (h2) and shared environment (c2) were small to moderate for the entire dataset for both light drinking and heavy drinking behaviour, with h2 estimates slightly higher in each case. Non-shared genetic measures of self-esteem and locus of control accounted for a significant portion of the remaining variance in heavy drinking behaviour. Race and gender patterns showed c2 and h2 estimates that were also small to moderate for both light and heavy drinking behaviour. Significant non-shared effects were found for the White group for heavy drinking behaviour, and for male pairs for both heavy and light drinking behaviour. Additionally, implications and future directions are discussed.
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