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Objective: Previous research shows that marriage leads to reductions in alcohol use, especially for women. Because marriage prior to age 20 (early marriage) is a marker for deviance, the protective effects of marriage may not extend to those who marry in adolescence. We compared the effects of marriage in adolescence versus young adulthood on alcohol consumption, negative alcohol-related consequences and heavy episodic drinking at age 29.

Method: We analyzed data from 1,138 women in a longitudinal cohort followed from ages 18 to 29. The original sample was recruited from 30 California and Oregon middle schools and first surveyed at age 13.

Results: Women who had not married, had married early or had married between ages 20 and 29 did not differ on alcohol use at age 18. Women who married as young adults were less likely than singles to engage in any alcohol use, heavy episodic drinking or experience negative consequences and reported less alcohol use at age 29. Women who married in adolescence reported fewer negative consequences at age 29 than did singles and (if they had not divorced) were less likely to engage in heavy episodic drinking or experience any negative consequences, reported fewer consequences and consumed less alcohol. The protective effects of marriage in young adulthood were observed whether or not women divorced. Parenthood and college attendance before age 23 did not explain the marriage effect.

Conclusions: Results support role theory, which posits that individuals who marry are socialized into conventional adult roles that discourage deviant behavior.

Reprinted with permission from Journal of Studies on Alcohol, (now called Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs),Vol. 66, No. 6, Nov. 2005, pp. 729-737. Copyright © 2005 Alcohol Research Documentation, Inc.

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Originally published in: Journal of Studies on Alcohol, (now called Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs) Vol. 66, No. 6, Nov. 2005, pp. 729-737.

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