Temperament of drinkers

How consumption of alcohol relates to temperament during childhood

The temperament at the age of 4 of 122 Swedish men was determined by a psychologist and their alcohol consumptions at ages of 18, 25 and 36 were measured. There were five kinds of temperaments: independent/goal-oriented, persistent/goal-oriented, extravert/aggressive, extravert/outgoing and socially reactive. The study shows that the "persistents" (at the age of 4) had the lowest rate of alcohol-related crimes when adults. "Aggressives" were likely to be binge-drinkers at the age of 25. "Extravert/outgoing" people (social confidence, activity, seek attention of adults, untidy -- when they were 4) were the most likely to be in trouble because of alcohol. "Socially reactive" men had few alcohol-related problems. Rothbart and Ahadi as well as Caspi found the same kind of correlation between "extravert/outgoing" and alcohol.

Results are marginally meaningful though, it would be hazardous to draw conclusions before the study can be reproduced on a larger population.

Reference: Wennberg P. and Bohman M.: "Childhood temperament and adult alcohol habits: A prospective longitudinal study from age 4 to age 36", Addictive behaviors 27, 63 (2002)

Alcoholism or not?

What is the boundary between "hard" drinking and alcoholism? Is alcoholism the main threat from alcohol?

Most social problems due to alcohol are not from alcoholics but by other "hazardous drinkers". These people drink between 30 and 50 drinks a week and generally do not consider that they have a drinking problem. According to experts, 1 in 13 men is dependent on alcohol (this is a British figure but we can guess it will not be dramatically lower in other countries.) These men will not all be considered alcoholics and treated as such.

It has been established that drivers arrested intoxicated at the wheel who took "classes" about alcohol have a lower reconviction rate than those who did not take them.

Reference: Hinsliff G.: "Heavy drinkers to be locked up", Guardian February 27th 2003

Types of alcoholism

Authors identified two types of alcoholism. They describe the effects and causes (heredity or environment) as shown in the table below. They studied adoptees whose biological parents were known and they looked for correlations between alcoholism of the children and alcoholism of the biological or adoptive parents.

 Type IType II
Causegenetic and environnementmostly genetic
Gendermen and womenmen more than women
Beganafter 25 years of agebefore 25 years of age
Alcohol-related issues
  • loss of control over consumption
  • feels guilty
  • binge-drinking
  • progressive
  • unable to refrain from drinking
  • violence and arrests
  • generally non-progressive
Personality traitsweak search of noveltystrong search of novelty
Reason for drinkinganxietyeuphoria

Reference: Cloninger C. R., Sigvardsson S. and Bohman M. : "Type I and type II alcoholism: an update", Alcohol, health and research world 20, 18 (1996)

Alcohol and youth


Alcohol and culture

"Recent years have seen numerous studies dedicated to risk factors of alcohol abuse. But insufficient attention has been paid to the 'beneficial factors' that in any society play a self-regulating role in the use and the abuse of alcohol. [...] Recent research conducted by experts in the Osservatorio [Osservatorio Permanente sui Giovani e l'Alcool in Rome] shows that the use of alcohol among young persons is very much conditioned by their cultural environment, by their socio-economic organisation and by the symbolic imports of the different types of alcoholic products, referring to cultural models."

Reference: 30 th International Medical Advisory Group Conference, Brussells, October 2002
Text above from


March 5th 2003