The Effect of Marriage on Young Adult Heavy Drinking and Its Mediators: Results From Two Methods of Adjusting for Selection Into Marriage

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This study tested the effect of marriage on young adult heavy drinking and tested whether this effect was mediated by involvement in social activities, religiosity, and self-control reasons for limiting drinking. The sample of 508 young adults was taken from an ongoing longitudinal study of familial alcoholism that over-sampled children of alcoholics (Chassin, Rogosch, & Barrera, 1991). In order to distinguish role socialization effects of marriage from confounding effects of role selection into marriage, analyses used both the analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) method and the change score method of adjusting for pre-marriage levels of heavy drinking and the mediators. Results showed role socialization effects of marriage on post-marriage declines in heavy drinking. This effect was mediated by involvement in social activities such that marriage predicted decreased involvement in social activities, which in turn predicted decreased heavy drinking. There were no statistically significant mediated effects of religiosity. The mediated effect of self-control reasons for limiting drinking was supported by the ANCOVA method only, and further investigation suggested that this result was detected erroneously due to violation of an assumption of the ANCOVA method that is not shared by the change score method. Findings from this study offer an explanation for the maturing out of heavy drinking that takes place for some individuals over the course of young adulthood. Methodologically, results suggest that the ANCOVA method should be employed with caution, and that the change score method is a viable approach to confirming results from the ANCOVA method.

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