Problem drinking affects millions of Americans and is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, relationship and family disruptions, and comorbid substance use and dependence. Research supports the notion that once both problem drinking and relationship distress exist, they exacerbate each other, creating a feedback loop with negative outcomes for both the drinking individual and his or her partner. Existing research has not yet directly compared the temporal effects of both components (problem drinking and relationship distress) as they relate to one another, and the processes underlying and influencing this association within a larger framework. The broad, long-term objective of the proposed research project is to further understand the relationship between problem drinking and relationship distress, laying the groundwork for improving future interventions to prevent continuation and exacerbation of problems. Specifically, the current project will compare the strength of the temporal effects between problem drinking and relationship distress, evaluate mediating and moderating variables, and test a comprehensive model, providing insight into the relationships between personal stress, alcohol consumption, relationship distress, and emotional and physical health. 78 married couples in which at least one partner regularly drinks alcohol and at least one partner is an undergraduate will attend laboratory sessions. They will return for two follow-ups at three and six months. Alcohol consumption, marital distress, relationship conflict, stress, and physical and emotional health will be assessed. The couple's behavior from a videotaped discussion will be coded for dimensions such as defensiveness, contempt, and happiness. Obtaining longitudinal data allows the investigators to determine for whom problem drinking more strongly predicts subsequent relationship distress versus the reverse. Gender and concordance of drinking will be examined as moderators of the problem drinking-relationship distress association. Obtaining both self-reported and behavioral data allows for examination of conflict strategies as processes underlying problem drinking and relationship distress. Finally, obtaining data from both spouses allows for identification of how each partner's stress, drinking, relationship distress, and physical/emotional health influences their own and their spouse's drinking, relationship distress, and physical/emotional health. The proposed project coordinates with the vision and mission statement of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) with its emphasis on the health risks and benefits of alcohol consumption, prevention, and treatment, and with its emphasis on increasing the understanding of normal and abnormal behavior relating to alcohol use. Ultimately, in accord with the strategic planning goals of NIAAA, the research findings will be translated and disseminated to health care providers, researchers, policymakers, and the public. Finally, the award will aid in the ethical, methodological, and substantive training of a promising new researcher to address the need for important, innovative research in the domain of drinking and marriage.

Public Health Relevance

Excessive alcohol consumption among college students continues to be a serious public health concern associated with a wide range of negative consequences. The broad, long-term objective of the proposed research project is to further understand the relationship between alcohol use and relationship distress, laying the groundwork for future prevention and intervention efforts to reduce depression, intimate partner violence, alcohol-related fatalities, and divorce rates. This goal will be achieved by disentangling and comparing the temporal relationships, identifying the most important influential variables, and testing a larger, more comprehensive model.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Health Services Research Review Subcommittee (AA)
Program Officer
Scott, Marcia S
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Houston
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Foster, Dawn W; Neighbors, Clayton; Rodriguez, Lindsey M et al. (2014) Self-identification as a moderator of the relationship between gambling-related perceived norms and gambling behavior. J Gambl Stud 30:125-40
Litt, Dana M; Lewis, Melissa A; Patrick, Megan E et al. (2014) Spring break versus spring broken: predictive utility of spring break alcohol intentions and willingness at varying levels of extremity. Prev Sci 15:85-93
Rodriguez, Lindsey M; Overup, Camilla S; Overup, Camilla S et al. (2013) Perceptions of partners' problematic alcohol use affect relationship outcomes beyond partner self-reported drinking: alcohol use in committed romantic relationships. Psychol Addict Behav 27:627-38
Young, Chelsie M; Rodriguez, Lindsey M; Neighbors, Clayton (2013) Expressive writing as a brief intervention for reducing drinking intentions. Addict Behav 38:2913-7
Rodriguez, Lindsey M; DiBello, Angelo M; Neighbors, Clayton (2013) Perceptions of partner drinking problems, regulation strategies and relationship outcomes. Addict Behav 38:2949-57
Rodriguez, Lindsey M; Neighbors, Clayton; Foster, Dawn W (2013) Priming Effects of Self-Reported Drinking and Religiosity. Psychol Addict Behav :
Neighbors, Clayton; Brown, Garrett A; Dibello, Angelo M et al. (2013) Reliance on God, prayer, and religion reduces influence of perceived norms on drinking. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 74:361-8