Age at First Drink Relates to Behavioral Measures of Impulsivity: The Immediate and Delayed Memory Tasks

Donald M. Dougherty, Charles W. Mathias, Melissa L. Tester, Dawn M. Marsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: This study examined the relationship between laboratory-measured impulsivity and age at first drink. Methods: Using a laboratory behavioral measure of impulsivity [Immediate (IMT) and Delayed Memory Tasks (DMT)], we compared two groups of women differing in their self-reported age at first drink (early-onset drinking, age <18 years, n = 40; late-onset drinking, age ≥21 years, n = 23). It was expected that those who first consumed alcohol before the legal drinking age (i.e., early onset) would perform in a more impulsive manner on the laboratory behavioral measure than the late-onset drinkers. Results: The main finding was that the early-onset group (IMT: mean, 28.7%; DMT: mean, 30.4%) had increased commission error rates compared with the late-onset group (IMT: mean, 21.2%; DMT: mean, 15.5%) during both the IMT [ANOVA: F(1,61) = 4.30; p = 0.042; f = 0.27] and DMT [F(1,61) = 10.76; p = 0.002; f = 0.42]. Age at first drink was significantly correlated with DMT commission errors (r = -0.23; p = 0.037), although this was only at the trend level for IMT commission errors (r = -0.20; p = 0.062); these correlations are likely to be underestimates because of range restriction of the age variable. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that differences in impulsive behavioral responding are distinguishable even between groups of alcohol drinkers who are not experiencing clinically significant problems with alcohol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)408-414
Number of pages7
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Age at First Drink
  • Alcohol
  • Human
  • Immediate and Delayed Memory Tasks
  • Impulsivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Age at First Drink Relates to Behavioral Measures of Impulsivity: The Immediate and Delayed Memory Tasks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this