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Alcohol and the Marriage Effect

Kenneth E. Leonard, Julie C. Rothbard

Objective: Research indicates a marriage effect with respect to drinking and drinking problems. This effect is characterized by less consumption and fewer problems among married men and women as compared with either single or divorced individuals. Method: This article reviews evidence regarding processes that might account for the marriage effect. Results: The literature suggests that the marriage effect reflects three processes: (1) reduced alcohol consumption triggered by the transition to marriage, (2) the deleterious effect of heavy drinking on marital quality and marital stability and (3) increased consumption in response to the transition to divorce. Conclusions: Given the nature of these transitions, it is argued that transitions to marriage and divorce should be viewed as unique opportunities for adult prevention activities, but that more pre-prevention research focused on changes over these transitions is needed to help target prevention efforts. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 13: 139-146, 1999)