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February 1973

Alcohol Problems in Adoptees Raised Apart From Alcoholic Biological Parents

Author Affiliations

St. Louis; Copenhagen; St. Louis; Iowa City
From the Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis (Drs. Goodwin and Guze), and the Psykologisk Institut, Department of Psychiatry, Kommunehospitalet, Copenhagen (Drs. Schulsinger and Hermansen). Dr. Winokur is currently at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa, Iowa City.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1973;28(2):238-243. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1973.01750320068011

Drinking practices and problems, plus a wide range of other life experiences, were studied in a group of 55 men who had been separated from their biological parents early in life where one parent had a hospital diagnosis of alcoholism. Compared to a matched control group of adoptees, significantly more of them had a history of drinking problems and psychiatric treatment. The two groups did not differ with regard to other forms of psychopathology, such as depression or character disorders.

Children of alcoholics had three times the divorce rate of the controls. Apart from alcohol problems and divorce, the two groups did not differ significantly with regard to any other variable studied. The adoptive parents of index and control subjects were of similar socioeconomic class and had similar rates of alcoholism and other psychiatric disorders. These findings suggest that genetic factors may play a role in the development of alcohol problems.

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