Childhood neglect is associated with low affect and high stress in habitual alcohol drinkers
Objective: Adverse childhood experiences, ranging from childhood trauma to neglect or mistreatment, show associations with alcohol dependence in adulthood. Alcohol researchers have not yet clearly demonstrated the potential impact of childhood maltreatment on everyday drinking in alcohol consumers who do not have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This study examined whether a history of childhood neglect results in differential ratings of stress, affect, and desire to drink, during typical alcohol consumption in moderate to heavy drinkers without an AUD.
Methods: The parent study from which these analyses were generated recruited overall healthy, albeit moderate to heavy alcohol users who fell above National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) classifications for low-risk drinking. Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) responses were collected, and real-time surveys were collected in participants’ natural environments approximately every three hours between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. using iPhones equipped with a study-created application probing stress, affect, and desire for alcohol, while participants followed their typical drinking routine (3 days) and during a brief period of imposed abstinence (3 days).
Results: Thirty-six participants averaging 41 years of age and consuming an average of 17 (±5) drinks per week participated in this study. CTQ responses showed low prevalence of childhood abuse, but moderate to high emotional (M = 17.39, SD = 6.77) and physical neglect (M = 11.11, SD = 3.31) scores. Multilevel modeling revealed significantly higher stress and lower affect ratings among participants reporting higher physical neglect. Alcohol consumption was significantly associated with decreased stress, and increased affect and desire for alcohol. A significant interaction showed that as childhood physical neglect ratings increased, the benefits observed following drinking (of decreased stress, and increased affect and desire for alcohol) were reduced.
Conclusions: These results suggest that moderate to heavy healthy daily drinkers with histories of greater childhood physical neglect experience poorer mood and higher stress on a daily basis, with smaller improvement experienced from drinking alcohol. Among moderate to heavy daily drinkers without an AUD, those with greater childhood physical neglect experience poorer mood and higher stress on a daily basis, and have smaller improvements in stress, affect and desire while/following drinking alcohol than those with less childhood physical neglect.
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