Selection and socialization of young adult romantic partners' drinking

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Texas Tech University

Abundant research concerning adolescent and young adult drinking has focused primarily on factors that may explain the continuance of alcohol use from adolescence into young adulthood, such as parental alcohol use, peer alcohol use, personality characteristics, and the college environment. However, this study proposed that alcohol use among young adults can also be associated with the romantic relationship context of young adults. Drawing from a social learning theory framework, this study examined the associations between adolescent drinking, romantic partner drinking, and young adulthood drinking through the lenses of selection and socialization processes. In addition, moderation effects, such as relationship type and sex of participant were examined. Using three waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, this study used hierarchical regression analyses with control variables and propensity scores to examine selection and socialization processes that help to explain young adult drinking. Control variables used in the models included parental alcohol use, peer alcohol use, sensation seeking, and college enrollment. Results indicated significant associations between adolescent drinking, young adult drinking, and romantic partners’ drinking supporting selection and mutual selection effects. After examining the moderating effects of relationship type and participants’ sex, results indicated that romantic partners’ drinking was significantly associated with the participants’ young adult drinking only within nonmarried relationships. In addition, the effects of adolescent drinking and romantic partner drinking were more important for males as compared to females. Lastly, the association of adolescent drinking and young adult drinking among married female participants was significantly greater than that of unmarried women and married males, even after controlling for third variables. There are important implications for female and male individuals who are in nonmarried relationships and marital relationships. Nonmarried individuals may be at risk for continuing to drink if they pair up with drinking partners, especially among males. Once two people pair up, their mutual identity of either a “drinking” or “nondrinking” partnership may be associated with individuals’ drinking. And because individuals may increase their drinking in order to form and keep romantic relationships, romantic partners may play an important role in individual vulnerability to consuming alcohol.

Romantic relationships, Young adults, Alcohol use