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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1997 May;21(3):547-56.

Marital functioning in early versus late-onset alcoholic couples.

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1
Center of Alcohol Studies, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway 08855-0969, USA.

Abstract

Current knowledge about alcohol and marital functioning is limited by restrictive sample selection, inattention to the literature on individual-based alcoholic subtypes, and lack of research linking individual differences among alcoholics to marital functioning. The present study was designed to study marital functioning of alcoholics in light of current alcohol typologies. Subjects were part of a larger study on conjoint treatment of alcoholic males and their female partners. Four typologies-including Type 1/2, In-Home/Out-of-home, Steady/Episodic, and Early/Late Onset-were tested for replicability and discriminant validity before linking them to marital functioning. Discriminant validity was found only for the Early (59%)-versus Late (41%)-Onset typology;thus, further analyses linked only this typology with marital functioning. At baseline, Early-Onset couples reported more marital instability, and the females in these couples were more distressed. During treatment, Early-Onset couples reported higher daily marital satisfaction than Late-Onset couples. Regardless of age of onset, males reported higher marital satisfaction than their spouses during treatment, but their satisfaction did not increase during treatment. Female partners' marital satisfaction increased during treatment. Female partners of Late-Onset males reported particularly low marital satisfaction during treatment. Parsing the sample according to the early-/late-onset typology yielded different predictors of marital satisfaction for males and females within each subtype. For female partners of Early-Onset alcoholics, psychological distress unrelated to her partner's drinking severity was most associated with her own marital satisfaction, whereas marital adjustment of female partners of Late-Onset alcoholics was most associated with the male's level of perceptual accuracy regarding her needs. This pattern was reversed for the males; marital adjustment of Early-Onset alcoholics was most associated with his partner's perceptual accuracy of his needs, whereas marital functioning of Late-Onset alcoholics was best accounted for by his own psychological distress.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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