Liability to substance use disorders: 2. A measurement approach

Michael M. Vanyukov, Levent Kirisci, Ralph E. Tarter, Howard F. Simkevitz, Galina P. Kirillova, Brion S. Maher, Duncan B. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Liabilities to complex disorders, discussed in the accompanying paper, present difficulties in measurement related to the arbitrariness of diagnostic threshold definitions and problems with discrimination between trait values, especially within the 'normal' individuals. The inability to quantitatively estimate the risk for a disorder, such as substance use disorders (SUD), is an obstacle for studying etiological (e.g. genetic) mechanisms and developing efficient prevention and treatment measures. Based on the concept of common liability to SUD, this paper delineates an application of the longitudinal family/high-risk design and item response theory to the development of a continuous index of liability. The method has been tested in both simulation study and empirical data. The approach described affords the opportunity to quantitatively estimate the risk for SUD at an early age and before any drug exposure. This method is also applicable to measuring liabilities to other complex disorders, especially those with relatively late onset.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-526
Number of pages10
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Addiction
  • Complex traits
  • Drug abuse
  • Etiology
  • Item response theory
  • Phenotype
  • Scale
  • Susceptibility
  • Vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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