- Posted by Austin Swim
- On August 1, 2015
- 0 Comments
Several studies exist that delineate the many problems that overconsumption of alcohol can bring into a marriage, but many fewer explore what effects marriage might have on drinking habits. One recent study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research and conducted by researchers collaborating between the University of Missouri and Arizona State University sought to explore just that.
The study takes its departure from research that consistently shows that problem drinking decreases as we age. Researchers label the trend “maturing out.” The researchers posit that these changes in drinking habits generally begin during young adulthood and are partially caused by the roles and responsibilities we take on as we age. Matthew Lee, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychological Sciences at MU, puts it this way: “A key conceptual framework psychologists use to explain maturing out and the ‘marriage effect’ is role-incompatibility theory. The theory suggests that if a person’s existing behavioral pattern is conflicting with the demands of a new role…one way to resolve the incompatibility is to change behavior.”
As the ‘new role’ in young adulthood is so often marriage, researchers at the University of Missouri and Arizona State University were interested in how marriage specifically might influence drinking habits. The researchers hypothesized that the new demands of marriage would require drinkers—particularly severe drinkers—to make significant changes in their drinking habits in order to overcome behavior/role incompatibility.
The researchers pulled their data from a long-term, ongoing study of familial alcohol disorders conducted at Arizona State University. With the data, they examined how drinking rates of the participants changed as they aged from 18 to 40, and whether or not marriage had an influence on these changes. They found that marriage can cause significant reductions in drinking, even among those with severe drinking problems. Matthew Lee stated that these findings are consistent, then, with the role incompatibility theory.
The results of this study could have a significant impact on how specialists approach treating patients who are dealing with substance abuse. The scientists involved believe that the findings of this study could help improve clinical efforts to help these individuals and lead to more targeted interventions for young adult problem drinkers. The findings could also influence public health policy changes.