Familial density of alcoholism: effects on psychophysiological responses to ethanol

M. E. McCaul, J. S. Turkkan, D. S. Svikis, G. E. Bigelow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Recent research finding suggest that the patterning of familial alcoholism may critically determine ethanol sensitivity and severity of alcohol-related problems in the offspring. The present study examined the effects of familial alcoholism density on psychophysiological responses to ethanol administration in college males. Subjects with a positive family history of alcoholism were classified into affected biological father only (LD-FHP) versus both father and at least one second-degree affected relative (HD-FHP), and were compared to family history negative (FHN) subjects. Subjects received 1 g/kg ethanol or placebo in a double-blind procedure. A battery of subjective, physiological and psychomotor measures was collected once prior to and four times following drink administration. HD-FHP subjects showed significantly greater subjective effects, body sway and skin conductance after alcohol ingestion than either FHN or LD-FHP subjects; in contrast, there was no difference on any measure for LD-FHP versus FHN subjects. Our findings of increased ethanol sensitivity as a function of familial density of alcoholism strongly suggest the importance of carefully defining family history characteristics in all studies examining potential markers or risk factors for alcoholism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-222
Number of pages4
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991


  • Alcohol ingestion
  • Alcoholism
  • Familial density of alcoholism
  • Psychophysiological measures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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