Problematic Alcohol Use and Marital Adjustment: An Interdependence Theory Perspective



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Although marriage generally predicts decreased heavy drinking and alcohol problems, many couples develop and maintain alcohol use disorders during marriage and other committed relationships. When one person is affected by problem drinking, it both affects and is affected by their close relationships, particularly the one with their partner or spouse. The causal connections between problematic drinking and marital adjustment are complex and only partially understood, but the available evidence shows that the two problems often exacerbate each other, creating a negative feedback loop. The current project examined problematic drinking and marital adjustment using an interdependence theory framework over three timepoints. Married couples (N = 123 dyads) completed a web-based baseline assessment and two web-based follow-up assessments three- and six-months later. New theoretical models using the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model (APIM) were tested. Support was found for husband drinking problems affecting his own and his spouse’s marital adjustment, especially if the drinking levels were discrepant within the couple and when the partner believes that the spouse’s drinking is a source of strain in the relationship. There was also support for mediation of drinking on adjustment through the wife’s destructive communication strategies and through spouse regulation behaviors. Overall, the new models integrate several mediators and moderators, which differ depending upon the temporal direction.



Alcohol, Marriage, Interpersonal perceptions