Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Twin Studies on Alcoholism

I found some of the twin studies interesting and provocative when discussing the contribution of genetics and the shared environments of alcoholics. Especially significant are the studies of adopted twins and their tendency to behave more like their biological, alcoholic parents than their adoptive, non-alcoholic parents (Heath, 1995; Suissa, 2003). I also found it interesting that there is a certain universality in that twins studied in the early 1900s had the same genetic influence as those studied much later. Furthermore, the findings were cross-cultural and non-gendered, so Swedish women in the earlier years had similar genetic influences to males in America during the latter part of the century (Heath, 1995).

In effect, although the samples studied have varied widely, the results have been remarkably consistent (Heath, 1995). However, some results demonstrated interesting cross-cultural differences, in that some environments seemed less conducive to the promotion of alcoholism. For example, in a Scandinavian study, men were less likely to become alcoholics, even though their genetic influences were similar to men from other countries (Heath, 1995). This is not to say that we should choose the genetic model or the learning theory exclusively, but it may be important to keep all of these results in mind when working with or designing treatment programs for alcoholics.


Heath, A. C. (1995). Genetic influences on alcoholism risk: A review of adoption and twin studies. Alcohol Health and Research World; 19(3), 166-171.

Suissa, A. J. (2003). Alcoholism as a Disease in North America: A Critical Social Analysis. Journal of Addictions Nursing, 14(4), 201-208. doi: 10.1080/jan.

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