Are Some Alcohol Use Disorder Criteria More (or Less) Externalizing than Others? Distinguishing Alcohol Use Symptomatology from General Externalizing Psychopathology

Yoanna E. McDowell*, Alvaro Vergés, Kenneth J. Sher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: The externalizing spectrum contains a range of disinhibition-related conditions, such as conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and substance use disorders. Comorbidity among externalizing disorders is commonly investigated at the syndromal and trait level precluding insight into the relationship of symptoms across externalizing disorders. It is unknown whether comorbidity across externalizing disorders holds constant across highly varied, individual alcohol use disorder (AUD) criteria. AUD criteria range from symptoms reflecting neuroadaptation (e.g., tolerance) to symptoms reflecting behavioral problems (e.g., social problems). The present study aimed to determine the degree to which individual AUD criteria are associated with symptomatology from other externalizing disorders. Characterization of the degree to which AUD criteria reflect neuroadaptation versus behavioral problems can be used to identify symptom profiles, which, in turn, can be used to inform diagnostic and treatment approaches. Methods: Data from 2 large nationally representative samples were used to examine associations between AUD criteria and externalizing behavior. Psychometric inquiries via multivariate and factor analytic approaches estimated relative associations of externalizing behavior and AUD criteria endorsement, as compared to alcohol consumption. Results: Our results indicate differential relations of externalizing behavior and AUD criteria endorsement. For example, social problems and role interference criteria were most strongly associated with externalizing behavior across analytic approaches, with general and unique associations with externalizing behavior. Additionally, tolerance was most weakly associated with externalizing behavior across approaches. Conclusions: Results highlight potential etiological heterogeneity among AUD criteria that could guide future diagnostic refinements and aid in the identification of treatment targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-496
Number of pages14
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Volume43
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the Research Society on Alcoholism

Keywords

  • Alcohol Use Disorder Criteria
  • Comorbidity
  • Externalizing Behavior

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