Earlier speakers, readers may be more likely to abuse alcohol

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Children with faster verbal development may be more likely to have alcohol problems as adult, according to a new study.

Research conducted on twin pairs showed that a child that spoke or read first was almost twice as likely to drink more than his or her sibling by the time they were 18.

The team followed 3,000 twins from Finland and focused on their verbal development and their drinking behavior as adults.

In addition to the earlier talkers and readers drinking more, they also found that the more verbally-proficient group was four times as likely to get drunk at least once a month compared to their counterparts.

Though the behavior might sound alarming, the authors noted that the verbally-skilled twins' frequent drinking was not enough to categorize them with a drinking disorder. No connection was made between being the first speaker or reader and a propensity for alcohol addiction.

The study authors hypothesized that while higher intelligence may make people pause to think of the consequences, it may also make them more willing to try more risky things.

Also, verbal intelligence in particular makes people more social, and in fact, the study authors discovered that the earlier speakers and readers had more friends than the twins that had less verbal prowess. In turn, that could make them more likely to be in more social situations where there is alcohol.

"People have this impression that intelligence is somehow related to being introverted and bookwormish," lead author Antti Latvala, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki in Finland, said 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."

The study was published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research on Sept. 13.

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