Research on alcohol-use disorders consistently shows problem drinking decreases as we age.
Also called, “maturing out,” these changes generally begin during young adulthood and are partially caused by the roles we take on as we become adults. Now, researchers collaborating between the University of Missouri and Arizona State University have found evidence that marriage can cause dramatic drinking reductions even among people with severe drinking problems. Scientists believe findings could help improve clinical efforts to help these people, inform public health policy changes and lead to more targeted interventions for young adult problem drinkers.
“A key conceptual framework psychologists use to explain maturing out and the ”˜marriage effect’ is role-incompatibility theory,” said Dr. Matthew Lee, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science at MU. “The theory suggests that if a person’s existing behavioral pattern is conflicting with the demands of a new role, such as marriage, one way to resolve the incompatibility is to change behavior. We hypothesized that this incompatibility may be greater for more severe drinkers, so they’ll need to make greater changes to their drinking to meet the role demands of marriage.”