Transitions Catalyst Model: Testing Within- and Between-Person Associations Between Social Relationships and Alcohol Use, Motives, and Consequences Among Young Adults
The Transitions Catalyst Model suggests increased alcohol use during young adulthood is due to the notion that alcohol facilitates friendships and romantic/sexual relationships during a developmental period when these relationships are highly valued. However, little research has tested the utility of this model. This study examined (1) whether young adults reported greater alcohol use and related consequences on months when friendships were more important to them or when they were dating casually, and (2) the extent to which social motives for alcohol use explain these associations on a given month.
Data were drawn from 752 young adults (ages 18–23 at screening) living in the Seattle, WA area (56.4% female). For 24 consecutive months, surveys assessed past month alcohol use and consequences, social motives for alcohol use, friendship importance, and dating/relationship status. Bayesian multilevel models were conducted, adjusting for time-fixed and time-varying covariates.
Analyses included 11,591 monthly observations. Between-persons, greater average friendship importance was associated with greater alcohol use. On months when participants reported greater friendship importance than their own average, they reported greater alcohol use and alcohol consequences. Those who reported more months of casual dating reported greater alcohol use and consequences on average. Relative to casual dating months, participants reported less alcohol use during months they were single or in a relationship and fewer consequences during months in a relationship. Associations were partially accounted for by social motives.
Findings support the Transitions Catalyst Model. Effective strategies for reducing alcohol use and associated risks among young adults include brief interventions focused on how social motives for alcohol use and relationships relate to alcohol use decisions.