Excessive alcohol use accounts for 88,000 deaths and nearly $225 billion in costs in the U.S. annually. Marriage is protective for alcohol use: married couples report less alcohol use than their unmarried counterparts. One pathway through which spouses influence each other is marital quality; marital quality is then inversely associated with alcohol use. Sexual minority people report elevated rates of alcohol use compared to heterosexuals, yet almost all past research on marital quality and alcohol use has been based on experiences of different-sex couples. We do not know if marriage is protective of alcohol use for same-sex couples as for heterosexual couples and whether these processes follow similar patterns when marriages consist of two men or two women. There is a need to understand marital quality and alcohol use in same-sex marriages to inform prevention and intervention programs to decrease sexual minority alcohol use disparities. In the proposed project, Ms. Pollitt's major objective is to assess how marital quality in same- and different-sex marriages relates to alcohol use and how these associations differ for men and women in these marriages. She proposes to address this objective through the following aims: (1) Compare the association of day-to-day marital quality with alcohol use in same- and different-sex marriages; (2) Identify non- marital stressors that exacerbate the estimated effect of marital quality on alcohol use in same- and different- sex marriages; (3) Examine the impact of marital quality and alcohol use on physical and mental health symptoms for same- and different-sex couples. With the proposed research plan, Ms. Pollitt will address significant sexual minority population health concerns related to alcohol use and physical and mental health. To accomplish the goals of the research plan, Ms. Pollitt needs training in relationships and health, family demography, the etiology and epidemiology of alcohol use, and dyadic daily diary analysis. The training plan combines formal coursework with one-on- one mentoring with her sponsors and consultants to develop these substantive skills in addition to lengthening her publication record, enhancing her professional development, the completion of a federal grant application, and preparing her for an independent research career.

Public Health Relevance

This project is aimed at identifying the influence of marital quality on alcohol use in same- and different-sex marriages. The results of this project can be used to significantly inform programs and practices addressing healthy marriages for multiple populations. Thus, it has public health relevance in the areas of domestic violence, substance use, STI transmission, and physical and mental health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAA1)
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Freeman, Robert
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University of Texas Austin
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Umberson, Debra; Donnelly, Rachel; Pollitt, Amanda M (2018) Marriage, Social Control, and Health Behavior: A Dyadic Analysis of Same-sex and Different-sex Couples. J Health Soc Behav 59:429-446
Pollitt, Amanda M; Mallory, Allen B; Fish, Jessica N (2018) Homophobic Bullying and Sexual Minority Youth Alcohol Use: Do Sex and Race/Ethnicity Matter? LGBT Health 5:412-420