Types of alcoholics: concurrent and predictive validity of some common classification schemes

THOMAS F. BABOR, ZELIG S. DOLINSKY, Roger Meyer, MICHIE HESSELBROCK, MICHAEL HOFMANN, HOWARD TENNEN

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Abstract

This study evaluated the discriminative power and predictive validity of five common typological schemes used to classify alcoholics for theoretical or clinical purposes. A heterogeneous sample of 321 alcoholics was classified according to primary vs secondary alcoholism, parental alcoholism, Jellinek's gamma‐delta distinction, gender, and subtypes derived from MMP1 profiles. A prospective longitudinal cohort design was employed to compare the relative ability of these typologies to differentiate alcoholics according to natural history, alcohol‐related consequences, response to treatment, and post‐treatment adjustment. The findings indicate that while ‘one‐dimensional’ typologies discriminate subgroups in terms of etiological variables, presenting symptoms, and drinking patterns, none of the classification systems emerges as a strong predictor of outcome status. In addition, these typologies do not discriminate well with respect to the alcoholic's drinking patterns and presenting symptoms, except in areas closely connected with the model (e.g. alcoholics with antisocial personality (ASP) indicate more social problems related to alcohol use than do primary alcoholics). Because there is a great deal of overlap among certain subtypes identified within different typological models (e.g. alcoholics with primary ASP tended to have, a positive family history and a gamma pattern of impaired control), we hypothesize that empirical clustering techniques that search for naturally occurring commonalities among alcoholics may be a better way to identify homogeneous subtypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1415-1431
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Addiction
Volume87
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

Cite this

BABOR, THOMAS. F., DOLINSKY, ZELIG. S., Meyer, R., HESSELBROCK, MICHIE., HOFMANN, MICHAEL., & TENNEN, HOWARD. (1992). Types of alcoholics: concurrent and predictive validity of some common classification schemes. British Journal of Addiction, 87(10), 1415-1431. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.1992.tb01921.x