BACKGROUND Abstinent alcoholics have deficits in comprehending the affective intonation in speech. Prior work suggests that these deficits are due to alcohol exposure rather than preexisting risk factors for alcoholism. The present paper examines whether family history of alcoholism is a contributor to affective prosody deficits in alcoholics. METHODS Fifty-eight healthy, nonabusing young adults with and without a family history of alcoholism or other substance abuse (29 FH+ and 29 FH-) were compared on affective prosody comprehension using the Aprosodia Battery. A secondary analysis was done comparing affective prosody comprehension in FH+ and FH- detoxified alcoholics from an earlier study (17 FH+ and 14 FH-). RESULTS Performance on the Aprosodia Battery was not related to FH status in either the healthy, nonabusing sample or in the detoxified alcoholic group. CONCLUSIONS The present study lends support to previous research suggesting that deficits in affective prosody comprehension observed in detoxified alcoholics are associated with a history of heavy drinking rather than with a family history of alcoholism.