The University of California, San Francisco Family Alcoholism Study. I. Design, methods, and demographics

Cassandra Vieten, Kimberly L. Seaton, Heidid S. Feiler, Kirk C. Wilhelmsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Family Alcoholism Study is a project designed to identify genetic loci that influence susceptibility to alcohol dependence and related phenotypes. Evidence supports a substantial genetic contribution to alcoholism susceptibility. However, the genetic epidemiology of alcoholism is complex, and its clinical manifestation is heterogeneous, making phenotype definition and demonstration of linkage difficult. Despite these challenges, some progress has been made toward identifying genes. Methods: The UCSF Family Alcoholism Study used a small family design, focusing primarily on sibling pairs and parent-child trios for linkage and association studies. Alcoholism-related phenotypes were assessed through interview and self-report questionnaires, with a focus on unidimensional and subphenotypical traits. Data-driven approaches to determining the most promising phenotypes for genetic analysis are being used. Both genome-wide scan and candidate gene approaches were used. Results: The study enrolled 2154 individuals from 970 families from December 1995 through January 2003. Test-retest and interrater reliability for clinical data are very good, and power estimates suggest that this study will have adequate power by linkage analysis to detect loci with moderate effects. Design, methods, and sample demographics of the UCSF Family Study are presented, along with intrafamilial correlations for primary diagnostic phenotypes. Conclusions: Plans for genetic analysis, novel approaches to phenotype refinement, and the implications of ascertainment bias for heritability estimates are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1509-1516
Number of pages8
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol Dependence
  • Alcoholism
  • Family Study
  • Genetics
  • Linkage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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