Neuropsychological Executive Functioning in Children at Elevated Risk for Alcoholism: Findings in Early Adolescence

Joel T. Nigg, Edwin Poon, Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Jennifer M. Glass, Maria M. Wong, Jennifer M. Jester, Leon I. Puttler, Kenneth M. Adams, Robert A. Zucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


One component of individual risk for alcoholism may involve cognitive vulnerabilities prodromal to alcoholism onset. This prospective study of 198 boys followed between 3 and 14 years of age evaluated neurocognitive functioning across three groups who varied in familial risk for future alcoholism. Measures of intelligence, reward-response, and a battery of neuropsychological executive and cognitive inhibitory measures were used. Executive functioning weaknesses were greater in families with alcoholism but no antisocial comorbidity. IQ and reward-response weaknesses were associated with familial antisocial alcoholism. Executive function effects were clearest for response inhibition, response speed, and symbol-digit modalities. Results suggest that executive deficits are not part of the highest risk, antisocial pathway to alcoholism but that some executive function weaknesses may contribute to a secondary risk pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)302-314
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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