Is there a relationship between adverse childhood experiences and problem drinking behaviors? Findings from a population-based sample



The study investigated the relationships between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and heavy and binge drinking, stratified by gender.

Study design

Population-based cross-sectional study.


Data were retrieved from 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Over 39,000 individuals from five states were included in the study. Multiple logistic regression models were used to analyze the weighted data to determine factors associated with heavy and binge drinking for men and women. Each model included ACEs and controlled for sociodemographic variables, depression and smoking status. Bonferroni method was used to correct multiple comparisons.


Only a few relationships between ACEs and problem drinking were observed. Among men, living with a drug abuser as a child was significantly associated with both heavy and binge drinking compared to men who did not reside with a drug abuser as a child. Childhood verbal abuse was linked with men’s binge drinking compared to men who were not verbally abused as children. Among women, none of the nine ACEs examined in the study were associated with their heavy drinking. Only one ACE, verbal abuse, was found to be correlated with binge drinking, compared to women who did not experience childhood verbal abuse. In addition, we did not find the hypothesized, step-wise, graded relationship between the number of ACEs and heavy and binge drinking. However, the risk of heavy drinking was greater if the individual was exposed to four or more childhood adversities among both men and women.


Study hypotheses were only partially supported. Future studies should unpack the interplay among gender, socio-economic status, ACEs, and problem alcohol consumption.

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