Alcohol and Marijuana Use Across the Transition to Marriage: Group Differences and Psychosocial Factors

Open Access
Auerbach, Karen J
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 14, 2008
Committee Members:
  • Jennifer Lianne Maggs, Committee Chair
  • D Wayne Osgood, Committee Chair
  • Linda Marie Collins, Committee Member
  • Joseph Francis Schafer, Committee Member
  • Stephanie Trea Lanza, Committee Member
  • peer substance use
  • time spent with friends
  • race
  • gender
  • transition to marriage
  • substance use
  • substance use attitudes
  • young adulthood
  • multilevel modeling
It has been well-established that alcohol and marijuana use levels tend to decline during the transition to marriage, or the transition from single to married status, during young adulthood (~ ages 18 to 30; e.g., Bachman, Wadsworth, O’Malley, Schulenberg, & Johnston, 1997; Curran, Muthén, & Harford, 1998; Miller-Tutzauer, Leonard, & Windle, 1991). However, several questions remain regarding marriage-related declines in substance use. First, to what extent does the transition to marriage account for age-related declines in alcohol and marijuana use following the early twenties? Second, to what extent do marriage-related declines in alcohol and marijuana use differ by individual characteristics (i.e., age at marriage, gender, and race)? And third, do social influences (i.e., the average amount of time spent with friends, the number of friends who use alcohol and marijuana, and friends’ approval of these substances) and attitudes regarding substance use (i.e., approval of alcohol and marijuana use) help explain marriage-related declines in alcohol and marijuana use? To answer to these questions, the present study used multilevel modeling to examine marriage-related change in the frequency of alcohol use, drunkenness, and marijuana use between ages 17 and 27 among 1,644 participants from the longitudinal National Youth Survey (Elliott, Huizinga, & Menard, 1989). Results indicated that the transition to marriage explained 46% of age-related declines in alcohol use, 82% of age-related declines in drunkenness, and 5% of age-related declines in marijuana use between the early and late twenties. Women and whites experienced significantly greater declines in alcohol use frequency during the transition to marriage than men and nonwhites. However, marriage-related declines in each type of substance use frequency did not significantly differ by age at marriage, and marriage-related declines in drunkenness frequency and marijuana use frequency did not significantly differ by gender or race. Marriage-related declines in time spent with friends helped explain marriage-related declines in each type of substance use frequency. In addition, marriage-related declines in participants’ approval of alcohol use helped explain declines in alcohol use frequency. However, marriage-related declines in each type of substance use were not explained by friends’ substance use, friends’ approval of substance use, and participants’ approval of drunkenness and marijuana use. Future research on the potential role of marriage-related responsibilities, marital quality, and leisure time in marriage-related declines in substance use is suggested.