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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dating And Drinks Dominate Adolescent Behavior

Knowing the nature, behavior, attachment to a partner, can be done via a date. However, on the other hand, a date can also support risky behavior. Little research has examined several levels of substance abuse in young adult romantic relationships.

“Mate selection is based on a few variables, such as the influence of peers and religion, but in young adults, drinking is also prominent and shouldn’t be ignored,” according to Jacquelyn Wiersma of the University of Arkansas.

Jacquelyn Wiersma wants to know why people select a certain person as a romantic partner. She can’t answer that question yet, but on her way to the answer, she has learned some important things about the lives of teenagers and young adults.

Underage drinking at a party may be a one-time bit of rebellion or the beginning of a life centered on alcohol. Dating may be a pleasant, though sometimes anxious, activity that helps an adolescent learn about relating to a potential mate. Or it may be a training ground for relationships based on mutual support for risky behavior. The choices they make as adolescents may well influence the decisions they make as young adults, including their selection of a life partner.

Wiersma, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences, has examined existing research results and found little that focuses on mate selection and drinking. She hopes to identify the shape of factors and decisions that go into the complex task of mate selection by looking at the choice of a romantic partner in the context of risk taking and by tracking behaviors as adolescents transition to young adulthood. Wiersma has been involved in a series of studies, most often with colleagues from Texas Tech and Penn State, which have approached the question from the angles of drinking or violence in romantic partnerships.

In a 2010 study, Wiersma and colleagues used Add Health data on drinking and romantic partnerships in adolescents and young adults to look at the experiences of 852 couples, including couples who were dating, cohabiting and married. They found that drinking in adolescence carried through to partners’ drinking in young adulthood. Six years had passed between the adolescent and young adult surveys, suggesting that “drinking behaviors may be important when choosing a potential romantic partner, even beyond demographic similarities.”

For males, there was a strong association between their drinking and their partner’s drinking. That is, the researchers wrote, “The more men’s female partners drank, the more he drank, more so than for women with their male partners.” In the transition from adolescence to young adulthood, men’s drinking tended to increase, whether dating, cohabiting or married. Married women showed the smallest increase in drinking, a result meriting further investigation, the researchers wrote.

In another study of 741 young adult couples, Wiersma identified four types of drinking partnerships among young adult heterosexual couples. The vast majority of the couples had congruent drinking behaviors; that is, the males and females drank about the same amount and with the same frequency. The majority, 417 couples, reported being both light and infrequent drinkers, while 147 couples frequently drank moderately to heavily.

The remaining couples had discrepant drinking behaviors. In 90 couples, the males drank more heavily and more frequently than the females. In another 37 couples, the females were the heavy and frequent drinkers.
“There are important implications for young adult individuals who drink discrepantly within their romantic relationships,” Wiersma said.

For example, intimate partner violence: Whether the man or the woman is the heavy, frequent drinker, the more discrepancy in drinking behaviors, the greater the level of conflict and violence in the relationship.

The researchers emphasized that the majority of couples they studied did not report experiencing intimate partner violence. Just 26 percent of young men and 26 percent of young women reported initiating violence against their current partner, and the violence was more often minor. In the Add Health studies, minor violence includes threats, pushing, shoving and throwing things that could result in a strain, bruise or light cut. Severe violence includes slapping, kicking and forced sexual relations. These forms of violence are not the same as “intimate terrorism,” which is less common and is predominantly perpetrated by men.

This story has edited by author of threelas

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