Similarity in romantic couples drinking motivations and drinking behaviours

Background: Research suggests that enhancement, conformity, social, coping-with-anxiety, and coping with depression drinking motives are linked to specific drinking outcomes in a theoretically expected manner. Social learning theory suggests that people who spend more time together emulate each other’s behavior to acquire reinforcing outcomes. The present study sought to integrate drinking motives theory and social learning theory to investigate similarity in drinking behaviors and drinking motives in romantic couples. We hypothesized that couples would be more similar than chance in their drinking behaviors and motives. We also hypothesized that demographics reflecting time around and interactions with romantic partners (e.g., days spent drinking together) would positively correlate with similarity in drinking behaviors and motivations. Methods: The present study tested hypotheses in 203 romantic couples. Participants completed a Timeline Follow-Back measure and the Modified Drinking Motives Questionnaire—Revised to track their alcohol use and drinking motives. Similarity profiles were calculated using McCrae’s (J Pers Assess. 2008;90:105–109) coefficient of profile agreement, rpa. Results: Couples were more similar in their drinking behavioral and motivational profiles than could be explained by chance. Days spent drinking together and days with face-to-face contact predicted increased similarity in drinking behavior profiles, but not similarity in drinking motives profiles. Conclusions: Results are partially consistent with social learning theory and suggest that social influences within couples could be important intervention targets to prevent escalations in drinking.