Childhood Religious Affiliation and Alcohol Use and Abuse Across the Lifespan in Alcohol-Dependent Men


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Abstract

The current study examined the relationship between childhood religious affiliation and alcohol use across the life span. A sample of 931 men (average age of 51) from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry, which includes an overrepresentation of alcohol-dependent men, completed the Lifetime Drinking History interview, which assessed drinking across the life span. Childhood religious affiliation was obtained from the men's spouse/partner. Affiliations were subdivided into four categories: nonreligious, accommodating (religions that are relatively more accepting of the larger culture), differentiating (religions that set themselves apart from the larger culture), and Catholic. Differences in a variety of alcohol use variables by religious affiliation were examined, as well as the protective effect of childhood religious affiliation on three alcohol use variables at 5-year intervals from age 20 to age 50. Significant differences were found for abstinence, regular drinking, and current quantity-frequency (QFI) scores, with individuals in differentiating religions having the highest rates of abstinence/nonregular drinking and the lowest consumption levels. When examining QFI and alcohol dependence symptoms and diagnoses over time, the nonreligious group had more alcohol use than the religious groups, with the differentiating affiliations showing the least alcohol use. The differences between affiliations were not always significant, but the consistent pattern suggests that childhood religious affiliation may continue to affect alcohol use even into adulthood.

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