Methods: Data were obtained from the Alcohol-Related Experiences among Children (AREC). A prospective cohort of 946 6th graders (age 11-12) were ascertained from 17 elementary schools in northern Taiwan in 2006 (response rate=61.0%wt); subsequent assessment was conducted at 7th grade (age 12-13; n=823, follow-up rate [FR]=87.1%wt), and 8th grade (age 13-14; n=776, FR=82.6%wt). Information concerning individual socio-demographics, family characteristics, negative life events (measured by the Chinese version of the Life Event Checklist), family drinking behaviors, and alcohol-related behaviors was collected by self-administered paper-and-pencil questionnaires. Complex survey analyses in the zero-inflated negative binomial distribution were used to estimate the association linking family-related negative life events and past-year drinking occasions at 8th grade.
Results: Among 776 participating students, nearly 40%wt had drunk at least once in the year preceding 8th grade, and past-year cumulative drinking occasions ranged from 1 to 50. Catastrophic illness of families (n=142, 18.7%wt), increased parents' quarrel (n=97, 13.8%wt), and death of a family member(n=104, 13.6%wt) are the top-three family-related negative life events reported in late childhood, and 40.7%wt had experienced one or more family-related negative life events. The average of drinking occasions in the children sub-grouped by the cumulative family-related negative life events (i.e. one or zero, two, and three or more) were 1.2, 1.4, and 2.4 (trend analysis, P<0.05), respectively. Having experienced three or more negative life events may increase one’s drinking occasions in adolescence by 97% (95% Confidence Intervals=1.30-2.99).
Conclusions: The finding indicates that children experiencing multiple negative life events may drink on more occasions in adolescence. Possible psychological and biological mechanisms underlying the observed association may warrant future attention.