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Keywords:

  • Alcohol use disorder;
  • behavioral disinhibition;
  • development;
  • negative emotionality;
  • personality

ABSTRACT

Aims  To examine the reciprocal effects between the onset and course of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and normative changes in personality traits of behavioral disinhibition and negative emotionality during the transition between adolescence and young adulthood.

Design  Longitudinal–epidemiological study assessing AUD and personality at ages 17 and 24 years.

Setting  Participants were recruited from the community and took part in a day-long, in-person assessment.

Participants  Male (n = 1161) and female (n = 1022) twins participating in the Minnesota Twin Family Study.

Measurements  The effects of onset (adolescent versus young adult) and course (persistent versus desistent) of AUD on change in personality traits of behavioral disinhibition and negative emotionality from ages 17 to 24 years.

Findings  Onset and course of AUD moderated personality change from ages 17 to 24 years. Adolescent onset AUD was associated with greater decreases in behavioral disinhibition. Those with an adolescent onset and persistent course failed to exhibit normative declines in negative emotionality. Desistence was associated with a ‘recovery’ towards psychological maturity in young adulthood, while persistence was associated with continued personality dysfunction. Personality traits at age 11 predicted onset and course of AUD, indicating personality differences were not due to active substance abuse.

Conclusions  Personality differences present prior to initiation of alcohol use increase risk for alcohol use disorder, but the course of alcohol use disorder affects the rate of personality change during emerging adulthood. Examining the reciprocal effects of personality and alcohol use disorder within a developmental context is necessary to improve understanding for theory and intervention.