Childhood Psychosocial Predictors of Adulthood Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and Physical Activity1


  • 1

    This research was supported by a research grant from the National Institute on Aging #AG08825, Howard S. Friedman, Principal Investigator. Some of the data were made available from the Terman Life-Cycle Study, begun by Lewis Terman. Further assistance was provided by Eleanor Walker of the Terman project. This paper is one of a series developed from our large-scale, multiyear multidisciplinary project on psychosocial predictors of health and longevity, Howard S. Friedman, Principal Investigator. Previous publications from our project are cited where appropriate, and care should be taken not to include overlapping findings in any meta-analyses or other reviews. Note also that sample sizes may change somewhat from paper to paper, as old data are refined, new data are gathered, or time periods change.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Joan S. Tucker, Department of Psychology, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02254–9110.


This study prospectively addresses whether aspects of the childhood home environment (SES and parental divorce) and personality are predictive of smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity in middle adulthood. Subjects were 972 males and females who participated in the Terman Life-Cycle Study. Results of hierarchical regression analyses indicated that childhood unconscientiousness, cheerfulness, and parental divorce predicted adult smoking. Childhood unconscientiousness and sociability predicted adult alcohol consumption. Physical activity was predicted by a higher energy/activity level in childhood. Results suggest that the previously found associations between childhood characteristics and health-related behaviors over shorter periods are not simply reflective of early experimentation with such behaviors, but may be indicative of long-term lifestyle patterns.