Measurement of the risk for substance use disorders: Phenotypic and genetic analysis of an index of common liability

Michael M. Vanyukov, Levent Kirisci, Lisa Moss, Ralph E. Tarter, Maureen D. Reynolds, Brion S. Maher, Galina P. Kirillova, Ty Ridenour, Duncan B. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The inability to quantify the risk for disorders, such as substance use disorders (SUD), hinders etiology research and development of targeted intervention. Based on the concept of common transmissible liability to SUD related to illicit drugs, a method enabling quantification of this latent trait has been developed, utilizing high-risk design and item response theory. This study examined properties of a SUD transmissible liability index (TLI) derived using this method. Sons of males with or without SUD were studied longitudinally from preadolescence to young adulthood. The properties of TLI, including its psychometric characteristics, longitudinal risk assessment and ethnic variation, were examined. A pilot twin study was conducted to analyze the composition of TLI's phenotypic variance. The data suggest that TLI has concurrent, incremental, predictive and discriminant validity, as well as ethnic differences. The data suggest a high heritability of the index in males. The results suggest applicability of the method for genetic and other etiology-related research, and for evaluation of individual risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-244
Number of pages12
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Addiction
  • Ethnicity
  • IRT
  • Phenotype
  • Race
  • Transmissibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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