Pattern of Risks for Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders in the Offspring of Parents With Alcohol Use Disorder

Kenneth S. Kendler, Linda Abrahamsson, Jan Sundquist, Kristina Sundquist

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1 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The authors sought to clarify the components of the familial liability to alcohol use disorder (AUD) by examining parent-offspring transmission in a large Swedish population sample. METHODS: To this end, 1,244,516 offspring in intact families with a mean age at follow-up of 37.7 years (SD=6.8) were examined. Hazard ratios for offspring of parents with AUD were calculated using Cox models for risk of five disorders assessed from Swedish medical and criminal registries: AUD, drug use disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, major depression, and anxiety disorders. RESULTS: The hazard ratio for the offspring was highest for AUD (hazard ratio=2.36), followed by drug use disorder (hazard ratio=2.04), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (hazard ratio=1.82), major depression (hazard ratio=1.43), and anxiety disorder (hazard ratio=1.43). The risks for AUD were statistically indistinguishable between the children having mothers with AUD compared with those having fathers with AUD and between sons and daughters of a parent with AUD. All risks for offspring having two parents with AUD were higher than those having one parent with AUD, but the increase with two parents with AUD was greatest for AUD, followed by drug use disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Age at AUD onset of the parents predicted risk among the offspring more strongly for AUD and drug use disorder, followed by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and then major depression and anxiety disorders. Number of recurrences of the parents with AUD predicted risks for all disorders equally. The risk pattern of disorders for the offspring of not-lived-with fathers with AUD was similar to that in the main analysis of intact families. No evidence was found for sex-specific transmission of AUD or a familial female protective effect. CONCLUSIONS: Familial and likely genetic liability to AUD has three components: a nonspecific risk of common internalizing and externalizing disorders, a moderately specific risk of externalizing disorders, and a highly specific risk of AUD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-329
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Epidemiology
  • Familial Transmission
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance Use and Addictive Disorders


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