Aims: Childhood expectancies about alcohol are present long before drinking begins. We examined the relationship between alcohol expectancies in childhood and onset of drinking, binge drinking, and drunkenness in adolescence and the influence of drinking onset on development of alcohol expectancies. Design: A prospective, longitudinal study of children assessed for alcohol expectancies and drinking at 4 time points between ages 6 and 17. Setting: Community study of families at high risk for alcoholism conducted in a 4-county area in the Midwest. Participants: The study involved 614 children; 460 were children of alcoholics and 70% were male. Measurements: Expectancies about effects of alcohol were measured using the Beverage Opinion Questionnaire and child’s drinking was measured using the Drinking and Drug History - Youth Form. Findings: Partial factor invariance was found for expectancy factors from age 6 to age 17. Survival analysis showed that social/relaxation expectancies in childhood predicted time to onset of binge drinking and first time drunk (Wald chi-square, 1 d.f. = 3.8, p < .05 and 5.1, p < .05, respectively). The reciprocal effect was also present; when adolescents began drinking, there was an increase in social/relaxation expectancy and a concomitant increase in slope of the expectancy change lasting throughout adolescence. Conclusions: A reciprocal relationship exists between childhood alcohol expectancies and involvement with alcohol. Higher expectancies for positive effects predict earlier onset of problem drinking. Onset of use, in turn, predicts an increase in rate of development of positive expectancies
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