Early drinking in teenagers may be widely discouraged, but surprising new research has found that kids with better verbal and cognitive abilities are more likely to hit the sauce earlier than their less-bright peers.
A Finnish study to be published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, followed 3,000 Finnish twins, looking at both their drinking behavior and their verbal development.
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The researchers discovered that kids who developed verbal abilities earlier – correlated with higher cognitive abilities — were almost twice as likely to drink as their less cognitively gifted twin.
Further, kids in the more gifted group of twins were almost four times as likely to get drunk during any given month than their more cautious counterpart.
Although smarter kids may be more likely to begin drinking earlier, their intelligence also may protect them from the dangers of alcohol abuse.
"It is important to realize that experimenting with alcohol and drinking to intoxication – although illegal and not without risks – is very common among adolescents and can be regarded as normative behavior in many countries," said corresponding study author Antti Latvala in a press release.
"However, even though an adolescent with good language and cognitive skills may experiment with drinking earlier than his/her less advanced peer, better verbal and intellectual abilities have [also] been found to be protective against developing severe problems with alcohol and other substances in adulthood."
Why are smarter kids more likely to experiment with alcohol? Perhaps it's because intelligent people are more likely to seek out new sensations and try new things.
“People have this impression that intelligence is somehow related to being introverted and bookwormish,” said Latvala to Time. “But if you look at these large studies they definitely find this association with sensation-seeking and seeking different kind of experiences. [They’re] trying to learn new things It could be related to the nature of intelligence.”
Other research has found a distinct link between childhood IQ and alcohol use, indicating that smarter children in both the US and in the United Kingdom are more likely to drink alcohol than their less-gifted peers.
Children with an IQ at or above 125 were nearly one full standard deviation more likely to drink than those with an IQ at or less than 75, notes Psychology Today.