Husband's and wife's drinking: Unilateral or bilateral influences among newlyweds in a general population sample

Kenneth E. Leonard, Rina Das Eiden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Objective: It is often assumed that a husband's drinking influences his wife's drinking, but that the wife's drinking has no impact on her husband's drinking. However, there are little data that examine this. This article explores drinking patterns over the transition to marriage to assess whether changes in drinking patterns are influenced by the spouse's drinking and whether this influence is comparable for husbands and wives. Method: Approximately 500 husbands and wives were recruited after applying for their marriage licenses and participated in a longitudinal study of alcohol and marriage. Couples completed questionnaires that assessed alcohol use over the preceding year. These questionnaires were completed at the time of marriage and at the first anniversary. Results: Structural equation models were used to examine the longitudinal relationships between husband and wife drinking. The final model indicated that husbands and wives manifested similar drinking patterns at the time of marriage that could not be attributed to sociodemographic factors. Husbands' drinking at promarriage was significantly associated with wives, drinking after marriage, but the reverse was not true. Conclusions: The results suggest that husbands and wives display similar patterns in alcohol use, in part because husbands and wives marry similar individuals and because common life experiences impact the drinking of couples in a comparable manner. The similarity also occurs as the reflection of a husband influence on the wife. However, this process appears to be unilateral in that there was no evidence that the wife's drinking had an impact on the drinking of her husband.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-138
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol
Issue numberSUPPL. 13
StatePublished - Mar 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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