Young adult drinking partnerships: alcohol-related consequences and relationship problems six years later


Wiersma, J. D. & Fischer, J. L. (2014). Young adult drinking partnerships: alcohol-related consequences and relationship problems six years later. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. vol. 75 (4) pp. 704-712 , PMCID: PMC4108609


ABSTRACT. Objective: This study examines the association between young adult drinking partnerships (ages 18-26 years) and later alcohol-related problems and consequences, alcohol use, relationship quality, and relationship dissolution in adult relationships (ages 26-35).

Method: Data came from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health; Waves III and IV) with 1,347 young adults and their partners at Wave III, including dating, cohabiting, and married couples, and individual adult behaviors at Wave IV, 6 years later. Drinking partnerships were based on alcohol use frequency, quantity, heavy episodic drinking, and getting drunk.

Results: Four clusters included (a) congruent light and infrequent, (b) discrepant male heavy and frequent, (c) discrepant female heavy and frequent, and (d) congruent heavy and frequent drinkers. Young adult discrepant partnerships reported more alcohol-related problems and consequences 6 years later. Young adults in the congruent heavy drinking partnership indicated more separation/divorce and alcohol use as adults. Young adult married men who drank discrepantly and higher compared to their wives reported higher rates of adult drinking and problems than other men. There were a number of negative effects from congruent heavy drinking, especially for women.

Conclusions: These findings demonstrated that there are multiple types of young adult drinking partnerships based on couples' alcohol use behaviors. Men may be at risk for serious alcohol-related problems later in adulthood, especially when paired with discrepant drinking partners and congruent heavy drinking partners. Women are at risk when in congruent, heavy and frequent drinking partnerships. Studying romantic relationships and drinking has implications for broad aspects of young adult and adult development. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 75, 704-712, 2014).


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Journal Article

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Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs


Wiersma, J. D.
Fischer, J. L.

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