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Partner effects: Analyzing service member and spouse drinking over time

APA Citation:

Joneydi, R., Sparks, A. C., Kolenikov, S., Jacobson, I. G., Knobloch, L. K., Williams, C. S., Pflieger, J. C., Corry, N. H., & Stander, V. A. (2023). Partner effects: Analyzing service member and spouse drinking over time. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 65(4), 627-639. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2023.04.002

Abstract Created by REACH:

This study investigated how Service members and their spouses (n = 3,200 couples) affected one another’s alcohol use over time. The study also examined the relationship between couples’ alcohol use and a variety of individual, interpersonal, and military factors. At baseline, couples from the Millennium Cohort Family Study completed questionnaires on their alcohol use (i.e., drinks per week, frequency, alcohol-related problems, binge drinking, getting drunk), as well as individual factors (e.g., age, smoking status), interpersonal factors (e.g., number of children, social support), and military factors (e.g., branch, deployment status). At a ~3-year followup, couples reported their alcohol use again. Overall, Service members and spouses influenced one another’s drinking behaviors over time: their behavior became more alike from baseline to follow-up. The study also identified risk factors and protective factors for both partners’ alcohol use.


Substance use

Branch of Service:

Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member
Spouse of service member or veteran
Guard/Reserve member


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Joneydi, Rayan, Sparks, Alicia C., Kolenikov, Stas, Jacobson, Isabel G., Knobloch, Leanne K., Williams, Christianna S., Pflieger, Jacqueline C., Corry, Nida H., Stander, Valerie A.


Excessive alcohol use is a significant problem in the military. While there is a growing emphasis on family-centered alcohol prevention approaches, little is known about the interplay between partners’ drinking behaviors. This study examines how service members and their spouses influence each other's drinking behavior over time, and explores the complex individual, interpersonal, and organizational factors that may contribute to alcohol use. Methods A sample of 3,200 couples from the Millennium Cohort Family Study was surveyed at baseline (2011–2013) and follow-up (2014–2016). The research team estimated how much partners’ drinking behaviors influenced one another from baseline to follow-up using a longitudinal structural equation modeling approach. Data analyses were conducted in 2021 and 2022. Results Drinking patterns converged between spouses from baseline to follow-up. Participants’ own baseline drinking had a small but significant effect on changes in their partners’ drinking from baseline to follow-up. Results from a Monte Carlo simulation showed that the longitudinal model could reliably estimate this partner effect in the presence of several potential sources of bias, including partner selection. The model also identified several common risk and protective factors for drinking shared by both service members and their spouses. Conclusions Findings suggest that changing the drinking habits of one spouse could lead to change in the drinking habits of the other, which supports family-centered alcohol prevention approaches in the military. Dual-military couples especially may benefit from targeted interventions, as they face higher risk of unhealthy alcohol consumption.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


alcohol use, partner effects, alcohol prevention

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  August 2023

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