The British Journal of Psychiatry
Determinants of Psychiatric Illness in Young People


Young alcoholics, young drug addicts and young psychoneurotics were compared in order to determine whether they differed in family and personal background, premorbid personality, school and work adjustment and response to psychological tests.

It is suggested that in the development of alcoholism or drug dependence in young people there is an association between overt family disruption (death of parent, separation, divorce, illegitimacy), uninterested and punitive parents, childhood antisocial behaviour and personality disorder. The choice of alcohol appears to be related to factor such as family patterns of alcohol abuse, a masculine façade and higher levels of anxiety and neuroticism. The choice of drugs is related to factors such as sexual deviation, a stress on intellectual and artistic pursuits and a desire for thrills within the content of group deviance, but with lower levels of anxiety and neuroticism.

In the development of psychoneurotic disorders at an early age there appears to be an association with parental mental illness, parental disharmony (without overt disruption), cold and strict parents, and neurotic introverted personality.