Alcohol-induced blackouts and maternal family history of problematic alcohol use

Elise N. Marino, Kim Fromme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: Consequences of heavy drinking include alcohol-induced blackouts, which are periods of amnesia for all or part of a drinking event. One risk factor for blackouts is family history of problematic alcohol use (FH. +); however, research rarely distinguishes maternal from paternal FH. +. The objective of this study was to examine whether maternal or paternal FH. + better predicts likelihood of experiencing blackouts than a general measure of overall FH. +, and whether gender moderates this association. Method: Participants (N. = 1164; 65.4% are female) were first-time college freshmen (age range. = 17-19) who participated in a 6-year, 10-assessment, longitudinal study in the United States. Alcohol-induced blackouts, the dependent measure, were dichotomized (yes/no) based on endorsement of memory problems after drinking using a single item during Years 4-6. FH. +, captured at baseline, was coded if participants self-reported that their mother, father, or any of their four grandparents were a possible or definite problem drinker. Results: Overall, 773 (66.4%) participants reported experiencing blackouts during Years 4-6. Women were more likely to report blackouts than men; however, compared with women with a maternal FH. +, men with a maternal FH. + were more than twice as likely to report blackouts. Discussion: Men appear to be more susceptible than women to the effects of a maternal FH. +. Genetic and environmental explanations for this finding are discussed. In sum, these findings are an important step toward understanding a significant yet understudied negative consequence of heavy alcohol use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-206
Number of pages6
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • Blackout
  • Family history
  • Gender
  • Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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