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Psychological & Social Concerns

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There are a variety of factors that contribute to whether or not a person becomes alcohol dependent. Psychological risks can increase because of stress, family situation, and genetic makeup, which all play an important part in how each individual is affected. Psychological is defined as: of, pertaining to, dealing with, or affecting the mind, esp. as a function of awareness, feeling, or motivation.1

Stress is a common theme in women's lives. Research confirms that one of the reasons people drink is to help them cope with stress. However, it is not clear just how stress may lead to problem drinking. Heavy drinking by itself causes stress in a job and family. Many factors, including family history, shape how much a woman will use alcohol to cope with stress. A woman's past and usual drinking habits are important. Different people have different expectations about the effect of alcohol on stress. How a woman handles stress, and the support she has to manage it, also may affect whether she uses alcohol in response to stress.2

Many biological, psychological, and social changes occur during adolescence, and parents continue to play an important role in their children's development during this period. Dr. Michael Windle describes how alcohol abuse can interfere with parenting skills and marital relations, thereby affecting adolescent development and adjustment. Parents who abuse alcohol place their children at increased risk for alcohol and other drug use as well as for psychological problems.3

Experimenting with alcohol use is common during adolescence and can spawn serious problems for some youth. These problems include adverse medical consequences, health risks associated with unsafe sexual behavior, unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide.3 Among the reasons teens give most often for drinking are to have a good time, to experiment, and to relax or relieve tension. Peer pressure can encourage drinking. Teens who grow up with parents who support, watch over, and talk with them are less likely to drink than their peers.2

Heavy drinking increases a woman's risk of becoming a victim of violence and sexual assault. Drinking makes young women more vulnerable to sexual assault and unsafe and unplanned sex. On college campuses, assaults, unwanted sexual advances, and unplanned and unsafe sex are all more likely among students who drink heavily on occasion–for men, five drinks in a row, for women, four. In general, when a woman drinks to excess she is more likely to be a target of violence or sexual assault.2

Marriage is a major event in the transition from youth to adulthood. Newlyweds face many changes, including adapting to new social roles and adjusting to life within a partnership. The transition from a single to married lifestyle also may generate shifts in alcohol use and alcohol consumption. Drs. Kenneth E. Leonard and Linda J. Roberts discuss how alcohol influences marital quality in the early years of marriage. They conclude that one partner's abuse of alcohol does not necessarily lead to marital problems. Rather, the interplay of each spouse's drinking patterns may have the most effect on the health of a marriage.3

Research suggests that women who have trouble with their closest relationships tend to drink more than other women. Heavy drinking is more common among women who have never married, are living unmarried with a partner, or are divorced or separated. (The effect of divorce on a woman's later drinking may depend on whether she is already drinking heavily in her marriage.) A woman whose husband drinks heavily is more likely than other women to drink too much. Depression is closely linked to heavy drinking in women, and women who drink at home alone are more likely than others to have later drinking problems.

A woman's genetic makeup shapes how quickly she feels the effects of alcohol, how pleasant drinking is for her, and how drinking alcohol over the long term will affect her health, even the chances that she could have problems with alcohol. A family history of alcohol problems, a woman's risk of illnesses like heart disease and breast cancer, medications she is taking, and age are among the factors for each woman to weigh in deciding when, how much, and how often to drink.


  1. American Psychological Association (APA):
    psychological. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved July 23, 2007, from website:

This page was last modified on : 10/28/2013

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