Aims To study childhood precursors of drunkenness frequency among 18-year-old boys in a representative, nation-wide 10-year follow-up study.
Design In 1989, a general population sample of 2946 8-year-old boys was collected. Three different informant sources were used: parents, teachers and the boys themselves. The follow-up was 10 years later in 1999, when the boys were called up for their obligatory military service at age 18. Information about drunkenness frequency was obtained from 78.3% (n = 2306) of the original sample.
Setting Finland, nation-wide; in 1989 at schools, in 1999 at the obligatory military call-up.
Participants General population sample of Finnish boys born in 1981.
Measurements At age 8, the Rutter A2 scale, Rutter B2 scale and Child Depression Inventory (CDI) were used. At age 18, self-reported drunkenness frequency during the previous 6 months was determined.
Findings Of the subjects, 15.0% reported never being drunk from alcohol, 74.6% reported being occasionally drunk and 10.4% reported being drunk at least once a week during the previous 6 months. After adjusting for other variables, teacher's estimate of the child's problem behaviour at age 8 predicted frequent drunkenness in late adolescence. Hyperactive problems predicted both occasional and frequent drunkenness. Conduct problems at age 8 predicted only frequent drunkenness. High teacher-reported scores of emotional problems predicted lower occurrence of drunkenness-orientated alcohol use.
Conclusions The educational system has a potential role in detecting boys at risk of later risk-taking behaviours, such as frequent drunkenness. Early interventions in children with conduct problems and hyperactivity are called for.