Alcohol use disorders among adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs): Gene-environment resilience factors

Paolo Ossola, Maria Carla Gerra, Maria Lidia Gerra, Giulia Milano, Marta Zatti, Valeria Zavan, Riccardo Volpi, Carlo Marchesi, Claudia Donnini, Gilberto Gerra, Cristiana Di Gennaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Both genetic and early environmental factors contribute to the pathogenesis of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Gender and psychopathology symptoms might further moderate this association, resulting in an impairment of both the dopaminergic and serotoninergic pathways that sustain the binge, withdrawal and craving cycle. In a sample of of adult children of alcoholic parents (ACOAs) (n = 107) we compared those with and without an AUD, on socio-demographic variables, adverse childhood experiences, psychopathology symptoms and two polymorphisms associated with an impaired serotoninergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission (5HTTLPR and Taq1A/DRD2). A logistic regression revealed that an early caring environment might lower the risk of developing an AUD. When controlling for the actual psychopathology symptoms, being male and having the genotype associated with an impaired dopaminergic neurotransmission were still associated with AUD. Results were confirmed by an unsupervised approach that showed how the clusters characterised by being male and having the high risk genotypes were still associated with AUD compared to being female without the unfavourable dopamine genotype.Our results point to the need for implementing prevention strategies aimed at creating a caring environment especially in those families with an alcoholic parent. We further suggest that psycho-education as a symptom recognition and avoiding self-medication could improve the outcome in those subjects at higher risk, especially males.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110167
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • ACOAs
  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Dopamine
  • Gender
  • Serotonine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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