A foundational assumption in the fields of addiction and developmental psychopathology is that child and adolescent experiences set the stage for adult functioning and adjustment. However, the empirical literature documenting life-span linkages with adult alcohol (and other drug) use and abuse is sparse. This gap is due to a slow adoption of life-span developmental conceptualizations and the lack of long-term prospective longitudinal studies. This supplemental issue provides evidence for such linkages from six long-term longitudinal studies, which together follow individuals from birth through to the late 40s. The data sets include national and regional samples from Britain, Finland and the United States. In this introductory paper, we consider conceptual issues concerning linkages across the life-span culminating in adult alcohol use and disorders, and provide a summary of the purposes and common themes.