Toddler Personality Traits May Predict Teen Drinking Habits, Study Says

The personality traits of children in the first five years of their life may help predict alcohol use during teenage years, according to Fox News.

The study was published on July 10 in the journal Clinical and Experimental Research. The study revealed that certain temperaments of kids are correlated with teen drinking.

Danielle Dick, a psychologist from at Virginia Commonwealth University and a co-author of the study, said in a statement:

“People don’t enter adolescence as blank slates; they have a history of life experiences that they bring with them, dating back to early childhood.”

Live Science reported that for the study, Dick and her colleagues analyzed the results of a long-term study that tracked thousands of newborns in South West England from birth through 15 and a half years. The dataset included personality information obtained from mothers in the first five years of the child’s life and from both parents and the subjects themselves thereafter.

“The childhood traits that most correlated with alcohol use during teenage years fell on two sides of the temperament spectrum: emotional instability and relatively low sociability on one side, and high sociability on the other — a degree of extroversion that often leads to “sensation seeking” later in life. Tots who were either emotionally challenged or highly extroverted were more likely than other kids to grow into alcohol-drinking teens.”

“This indicates very different pathways to alcohol involvement/patterns that emerge early on, which has important implications for prevention efforts,” Dick said, according to New York Daily News.

“This underscores the fact that drinking during adolescence is largely a social phenomenon,” she added.

“However, this doesn’t mean it’s less problematic; we know from other studies that most adolescent drinking is high risk — for example, binge drinking — and can lead to numerous negative consequences.”

Roughly 12,600 subjects participated in the study, but not all individuals consistently provided data each year.

Only 4,600 teens provided alcohol use reports at age 15 and a half, but the team was able to statistically extrapolate results where data points were missing. Compared with similar studies in this field, the dropout rate was fairly low, Dick told Live Science.

Other studies have been done in the field of alcohol and children, and while some believe this study is a substantial step forward, not everyone believes these findings can accurately predict teenage alcohol use.

Matt McGue, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, said in a statement:

“While I think the most important finding concerns tracing personality differences back to preschool differences in temperament, we cannot, from these findings, predict with much accuracy which preschoolers will have problems with alcohol as adolescents and which will not.”

Do you think that toddler personalities can predict future teenage behaviors regarding things such as alcohol?

[Image via Shutterstock/MNStudio]