Temperament and behavioral problems among infants in alcoholic families

Ellen Peterson Edwards, Kenneth E. Leonard, Rina Das Eiden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


This study examined the association between paternal alcoholism and 12-month infant temperament and 18-month behavior problems. The role of associated parental psychopathology and maternal drinking in exacerbating risk for maladaptive behavioral outcomes was also examined. Participants were 213 families (102 control families, 94 paternal alcoholic families, and 17 families with alcoholic fathers and heavy drinking mothers) who were assessed when their child was 12 months old and reassessed again when their child was 18 months old. Infants of alcoholics displayed marginally more stubborn/persistent temperaments at 12 months of age, but significantly more internalizing problems at 18 months. Analyses suggested that internalizing problems in the infants of alcoholics could be attributed to the paternal depression concomitant with paternal alcoholism. In addition, an interaction was observed, indicating that paternal alcohol problems predicted 18-month externalizing problems among families with low maternal depression, but not among families with high maternal depression. Children of depressed mothers exhibited uniformly higher externalizing scores, but were not further impacted by paternal alcohol problems. However, children of nondepressed mothers were adversely affected by fathers' drinking as reflected by higher externalizing behavior scores. The results highlight the necessity of addressing the overall contextual risks that occur with paternal alcoholism in studies of the development of children in alcoholic families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)374-392
Number of pages19
JournalInfant Mental Health Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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