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Interrelationship between family history of alcoholism and generational status in the prediction of alcohol dependence in US Hispanics

  • K. G. Chartier (a1) (a2), N. S. Thomas (a1) and K. S. Kendler (a2) (a3) (a4)

Both a family history of alcoholism and migration-related factors like US v. foreign nativity increase the risk for developing alcohol use disorders in Hispanic Americans. For this study, we integrated these two lines of research to test whether the relationship between familial alcoholism and alcohol dependence changes with successive generations in the United States.


Data were from the waves 1 and 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Subjects self-identified Hispanic ethnicity (N = 4122; n = 1784 first, n = 1169 second, and n = 1169 third or later generation) and reported ever consuming ⩾12 drinks in a 1-year period. A family history of alcoholism was assessed in first- and second-degree relatives. Analyses predicting the number of alcohol dependence symptoms were path models.


Alcohol dependence symptoms were associated with a stronger family history of alcoholism and later generational status. There was a significant interaction effect between familial alcoholism and generational status; the relationship of familial alcoholism with alcohol dependence symptoms increased significantly with successive generations in the United States, more strongly in women than men. Acculturation partially mediated the interaction effect between familial alcoholism and generational status on alcohol dependence, although not in the expected direction.


Familial alcoholism interacted with generational status in predicting alcohol dependence symptoms in US Hispanic drinkers. This relationship suggests that heritability for alcoholism is influenced by a higher-order environmental factor, likely characterized by a relaxing of social restrictions on drinking.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: K. G. Chartier, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work, 1000 Floyd Avenue, P.O. Box 842027, Richmond, VA 23284-1030, USA. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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