Science Determines That Marriage Turns Men Into Teetotalers and Women Into Drunks

Illustration for article titled Science Determines That Marriage Turns Men Into Teetotalers and Women Into Drunks

Science, or at least a long, drooping branch of it, has determined that marriage affects the drinking habits of men and women very differently. How differently? you ask, perhaps with an eyebrow raised and your glass of bedtime milk raised halfway to your lips. Married men, it seems, are more likely to moderate their drinking, while married women are more likely to hit the bottle with a vengeance.


A group of sociologists led by Corinne Reczek from the University of Cincinnati sifted through data collected from a long-running study involving a few thousand people in Wisconsin, and determined that, while men generally tend to drink more than women, married men tended to drink more than their male counterparts. Researchers also analyzed a separate set of 120 interviews with married, divorced, widowed and single people about their lifestyles, finding that, overall, married couples simply tend to drink less than divorced, unmarried or widowed people. Men who were happily married, for instance, tended to be way at the sober end of the spectrum, while men who were not-so-happily divorced tended to be boozing it up pretty hard.

Marriage tended to conversely affect women, with married women drinking more than their divorced counterparts. Researchers concluded that this stark difference between how married men and women drink had something to do with women being more impressionable than men, who seemed to shift their drinking habits to their beleaguered spouses and then go merrily about making popsicle houses and painting egg cartons, you know, stuff blissfully sober people do. Reczek and her team concluded,

Our qualitative results suggest this occurs because men introduce and prompt women's drinking, and because divorced women lose the influence of men's alcohol use upon dissolution.


The team further added that marriage seems to change the "social condition" of men's lives in a way that makes it easier and more acceptable not to drink. Women, on the other hand, are driven to drink by their marital lives because apparently marriage isn't so much a union between two people possessed of an unrelenting affection for each other as it is one prolonged D.A.R.E. commercial. These are the lessons that sociology has taught us for the day — heed them well, I guess.

Study shows marriage stops men drinking — as their wives hit the bottle instead [Telegraph]

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Psychology and evolutionary biology researchers have the easiest job in the world: they get to pretend they're doing hard science even but without all the hard work, thought and hassle associated with scientific method; they can basically just have an opinion, then perform a study to back up that opinion, no matter how insane or circuitous, tenuous or faulty the logic. They then get to enjoy the spotlight when the media picks up the story and reports on it as if the results were spoken by Jesus Christ himself. At least within academia other academics have ways to reply to these half-baked theories, but unfortunately that part isn't covered by reporters, and these invalid opinions have already stained the popular imagination.

Given the fact that study after study after study has shown that women typically get shafted by the institution of marriage, that women do the lion's share of the household chores and childrearing and earn less money for the same or more work than men in the same job while the man in the relationship tends to have greater agency and power in it because he earns more, it would seem more likely that the increased drinking is a symptom of inequality, not the fact that we feeble-minded women are too impressionable to make up our own minds. Add to that the fact that women are conditioned to feel shame about their own feelings of rage or resentment, and that women are conditioned not to express those things and the fact that women in an unequal marriage may not have a career or independent work to give underpin their self-esteem, and the fact that they cannot often physically get away from the resented spouse or get a break from children, and I think we might be onto something. If women are so impressionable, then it would follow that women also pick up stereotypical other male habits, but there's no evidence for that.

Also, if this study is to be believed, women in lesbian relationships never drink, never have an alcohol problem because, as we all know, women would never, ever have more than one glass of wine without male influence, just because ladies don't do that. Oh, wait... I can see where this is going, Researchers. You're going to say that lesbians have "masculinised" drinking habits because lesbians are more masculine, right? Gold star for original thinking, Researchers, gold star. Way to raise the bar.

Meanwhile, back in reality land, we can examine the real issues. I have a proposal for a meaningful study: let's break down alcohol use and abuse in married couples, taking into account the quality of life and relationship satisfaction of each partner. Then let's compare alcohol use amongst couples whose marriage is happy and equal versus couples whose marriages are unhappy or unequal, and let's scale the relationship satisfaction and happiness index while we're at it.

My hypothesis? In the most equal marriages, which numerous other studies have shown to be the most intimate and happy marriages, both men and women will drink less because they rely on each other rather than booze in times of stress, because both parties feel understood, because both feel agency and control within the partnership and thus have less need to escape from reality. In the least equal marriages, marriages where the woman does more work but has dependence and low or no agency, which numerous other studies have shown to be least happy, the man drinks less because he is getting his needs met with no effort on his part (sex on demand, a maid, successful transmission of his genes with zero responsibility, all the agency and power) while the woman has more stress (no support, no recognition, no personal space, no control plus economic dependence and social pressure to remain in the marriage) thus a need to escape from reality. I'll go a step further - the women who get into unequal marriages and drink but don't get out have low self-esteem which goes hand-in-glove with difficulty expressing anger - all qualities which are well known to be positively correlated with drinking; on the flip side, we would expect men in unequal relationships drink less because they are less stressed as well as praised and rewarded by patriarchy for dominance irrespective of the quality of the marriage, thus increasing self-esteem, a trait that is negatively correlated with drinking. That's my hypothesis. Just saying.