Even in early childhood offspring alcohol expectancies correspond to parental drinking Academic Article uri icon


  • Research has found that children as young as preschoolers have an idea about the valence (positive vs. negative) and activation (arousal vs. sedation) of emotional change when adults drink alcohol. The development of alcohol expectancies at such a young age may be due to observed parental alcohol use.Three measures of alcohol use (frequency, quantity and binge drinking) assessed among 115 fathers and 149 mothers were correlated with four alcohol expectancy factors (crossing valence and activation) of their offspring, aged three to six (70 boys and 82 girls).For both arousal and sedation expectancies and across alcohol use measures of both fathers and mothers, the greater parental alcohol use was, the higher their sons' negative and the lower positive alcohol expectancies were. For negative expectancies (particularly sedation, i.e., drinking when feeling sad or depressed), there was a stronger and more consistent association with paternal than with maternal drinking. For daughters, there was no consistent association between any expectancy factor and any parental drinking behavior.Already among preschoolers, parental drinking was found to be correlated with their sons' alcohol expectancies in the sense that they may observe and associate positive emotional consequences (feeling joyful, happy, calm, relaxed etc.) with moderate parental drinking and negative emotional consequences (feeling angry, nervous, sad, depressed etc.) with excessive drinking. This may be important for prevention, as expectancies have been found to be predominant predictors of early alcohol initiation and development of risky drinking in adolescence and beyond.

publication date

  • 2018