The Association of Impulsivity and Family History of Alcohol Use Disorder on Alcohol Use and Consequences


Background: Extensive research indicates that having a positive family history of alcohol use disorder (FHP) and impulsivity are 2 risk factors for problem drinking. To our knowledge, no study has investigated which facets of impulsivity interact with family history to increase risk for problem drinking. The goal of this study was to: (i) examine whether FHP individuals with higher levels of impulsivity are more likely to engage in problematic drinking, and (ii) identify which facets of impulsivity interact with FHP to increase risk for problems.

Methods: The data consisted of a combined sample of 757 participants (50% female, 73% White, mean age = 32.85, SD = 11.31) drawn from the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center and the Center for the Translational Neuroscience of Alcohol. Analyses of covariance and cumulative logistic regression models investigated the association of family history and impulsivity‐related traits with drinking quantity, frequency, and alcohol‐related problems. Models were adjusted for age, sex, race, ethnic group, education level, and data source.

Results: Significant interactions between impulsivity and family history were found for measures of alcohol‐related problems. Specifically, there was a stronger positive association of Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS) poor self‐regulation with interpersonal, F(1, 504) = 6.27, p = 0.01, and impulse control alcohol‐related problems, F(1, 504) = 6.00, p = 0.01, among FHP compared to FHN individuals. Main effects of family history and impulsivity on alcohol quantity and frequency of use and problems were also found.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that having both a family history of AUD and high BIS poor self‐regulation is more strongly associated with alcohol‐related consequences in the interpersonal and impulse control domains. Given the heterogeneity of impulsivity, these findings highlight the need for additional research to examine which facets of impulsivity are associated with which alcohol outcomes to narrow phenotypic risk for alcohol misuse.



Publication Date


Publication Title

Alcoholism-Clinical and Experimental Research



Document Type




Family history of alcohol use disorder, Impulsivity-related traits, Alcohol quantity and frequency, Alcohol consequences