Current Psychology | 2019
Reciprocal Effects of Transitional Instability, Problem Drinking, and Drinking Motives in Emerging Adulthood
The cumulative experience of different transitions over a limited time is known as transitional instability. Young adulthood is a time of instability that can promote problem drinking. Theoretically, however, transitions could have positive or negative effects. This study was designed to evaluate reciprocal associations between transitional instability and problem drinking in emerging adults. These effects were tested in a sample of 402 university student participants who were under the age of 21 at time 1. Participants completed self-report measures of drinking problems, drinking motivations, and different transitions common during emerging adulthood (e.g., transferring to a new school or moving back in with parents). One year later, 285 of these participants completed these same measures. Data were analyzed with latent variables cross-lagged structural equation models. The results showed that problem drinking at time 1 was associated with increased transitional instability over the 1-year course of the investigation. Also, transitional instability at time 1 was associated with lower problem drinking by time 2. This later, unexpected effect may be explainable by elements of role compatibility theory. Problem drinking promotes transitional instability in emerging adults. However, transitions may also signify entry into adult roles that can lessen problem drinking over time.