An interdependent look at perceptions of spousal drinking problems and marital outcomes



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Research indicates a bidirectional association between heavy alcohol use and marital quality among couples. The current research extends previous research on the role of interpersonal perception by examining how partner drinking and perceiving one’s partner’s drinking as problematic are associated with subsequent marital outcomes. Moreover, we evaluated how perceiving one’s partner to have a drinking problem was associated with marital functioning, and whether that association differed based on the partner’s actual drinking. Married couples (N = 123 dyads) with at least one spouse who consumed alcohol regularly completed measures of alcohol use and consequences, the perception that their spouse’s drinking was problematic, and marital adjustment (i.e., relationship satisfaction, commitment, and trust). Results from actor-partner interdependence models using structural equations modeling indicated that for husbands, partner heavy drinking was associated with lower adjustment. Additionally, for husbands, perceiving their spouse had a drinking problem was associated with lower adjustment for both themselves and their wives. Moreover, significant interactions between partner drinking and the perception of partner drinking problem on marital adjustment emerged, controlling for amount of consumption. Specifically, perceiving one’s partner’s drinking as a problem was only negatively associated with relationship adjustment if the partner reported higher levels of heavy drinking. This pattern was stronger for husbands. Results illustrate the importance of interpersonal perception, gender differences, and the use of dyadic data to model the complex dynamic between spouses with regard to alcohol use and how it affects relationship outcomes.



Alcohol, Satisfaction, Trust, Commitment, Interpersonal perceptions, Marriage, Drinking problems


Copyright 2015 Alcohol. This is a post-print version of a published paper that is available at: Recommended citation: Rodriguez, Lindsey M., and Clayton Neighbors. "An Interdependent Look at Perceptions of Spousal Drinking Problems and Marital Outcomes." Alcohol 49, no. 6 (2015): 597-605. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2015.05.002. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.