Early verbal abilities fuel drinking behavior in kids

In a surprising new study, Finnish researchers have linked a child’s developmental traits with their chances of taking to alcohol as adults.

According to the findings of the study, children who reach their verbal milestone well in advance than their peers are more likely to face drinking problems in young adulthood.

The study, scheduled to appear in the February 2014 issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, suggests that children with strong verbal abilities during childhood are more likely to get attached with friends that drink and are more “sensation seeking.”

The study
To understand the association between child’s verbal abilities and alcoholism as young adults, researchers from the University of Helsinki, Finland, picked up data from two ongoing longitudinal studies of Finnish twins – FinnTwin12 and FinnTwin16.

While FinnTwin12 enrolls twins born between 1983 and 1987, FinnTwin16 studies twins born between 1975 and 1979.

For the current study, the researchers used data of twins who were known to be different in language development skills during childhood.

The researchers interviewed the participants of each group at three different times. While data on the twins from the group was collected at ages 11-12, 14-17.5, and as young adults at 20-24 years, data on the twins from the second study was collected at ages 16, 17-18.5 and as young adults at ages 23 and 25.

The parents of twins were also questioned about the age at which their children reached their verbal development milestone.

The twins self-reported their drinking habits, intoxication and alcohol related issues during adolescence and young adulthood.

Researchers found that children with more advanced verbal skills during childhood were more likely to report take drinks and become intoxicated during adolescence than their siblings who lacked early verbal skills.

Furthermore, more advanced twins were more “sensation seeking” and more likely to hook with friends and associates who drank, researchers highlighted.

“We found that differences in language development in early childhood and school age predict alcohol use behaviors in adolescence and up to young adulthood,” study’s corresponding author, Antti Latvala, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki said.

But the study failed to establish how advanced language skills fueled drinking behavior. But Latvala and colleagues speculate that better the child communicates, more friends he or she is likely to have, and more the likelihood of partying with alcohol. “Teens very rarely drink alone,” Latvala averred.

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