Findings: My husband made me do it

September 5, 2003

Men who drink heavily turn their newlywed wives towards alcohol, according to research.

In a study that examined the influence that husbands and wives had on each other's alcohol consumption, researchers in the US found that husbands'

premarital drinking behaviour was predictive of wives' drinking behaviour at their first anniversary.

"The amount and frequency with which newlywed wives drank was influenced by their husbands' drinking habits," Kenneth Leonard of the department of psychology, University at Buffalo, State University of New York and lead author of the study, told The THES. "However, wives' drinking patterns did not affect those of their husbands."

He said that heavy-drinking women were more likely to be married to men who drank heavily, and husbands who drank lightly would have a protective effect on their wives, influencing them to drink less.

The study also suggests that married women's use of alcohol may be motivated by a desire to initiate or maintain relationships. "Wives who adapt their drinking behaviour to match that of their husbands may be attempting to enhance their relationship with them."

The researchers recruited 519 men and women to complete a questionnaire about their own and their peers' drinking habits at the time they applied for their marriage licence and again at their first anniversary.

It was also discovered that drinking habits were not influenced by social class but that men chose to associate with people who had similar drinking habits.

Husbands' drinking habits also reshaped their wives' social networks. The study suggests that wives may have been more likely to drop peers whose drinking was not consistent with their husbands' but keep friends whose drinking matched that of their partners.

The study states: "The results provide clues to the impact marriage and marital partners have on each other with respect to drinking, and how drinking shapes the social network of these married couples."

These findings are published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviours.

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