Usually, parents think their child is highly talented or developing at a faster rate when their child begins to talk and walk earlier than most toddlers. Usually, this is a good thing, but new research has found that it could have some consequences down the line. Some studies have found that adults with poorer cognitive skills are more at risk of alcohol-related injuries or death, but research now suggests that children who develop verbal and cognitive skills early could be more likely to engage in an early exploration of alcohol in their adolescence.

The new study, set to be published in the February 2014 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, says that there are links between better verbal development during childhood and more frequent drinking and intoxication during adolescence and young adulthood.

Antti Latvala, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki as well as corresponding author for the study, says that "Previous studies have suggested that the relationship between cognitive abilities and alcohol use behaviors is complex. Whether differences in cognitive abilities play a role in drinking initiation or frequency -- in contrast to severe problems -- is not so clear. Some studies haven't found any association. However, in recent years this issue has been investigated in several large-scale cohort studies in the U.K. and the U.S., and these studies have found that those who scored better in a standard cognitive ability test in childhood or adolescence were less likely to abstain from alcohol and more likely to drink frequently in adulthood."

Latvala and his teams used data from two ongoing population-based longitudinal studies of Finnish twins, FinnTwin12 (FT12), of twins born 1983-1987, and FinnTwin16 (FT16), of twins born 1975 to 1979. A questionnaire was used to collect the necessary data and the surveys lasted over a period of 15 years with about a three-year gap in between each questionnaire. Some questions included the children’s age they started speaking, reading, and expressing language skills, and also some questions about the children’s drinking habits when they were older.

After the questionnaires were evaluated, it was found that the children who displayed more developed language skills earlier in life were more prone to frequent drinking and intoxication later in life. In the study, the twins who did not develop early had more typical drinking habits.

Source: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (2013, September 12). "Better verbal development during childhood linked to later drinking and intoxication." ScienceDaily. 12 Sep. 2013. Web. 19 Sep. 2013.