Current Psychology

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 376–386 | Cite as

Reciprocal Effects of Transitional Instability, Problem Drinking, and Drinking Motives in Emerging Adulthood

  • Chris SegrinEmail author
  • Jill Bowers


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.


Drinking motivations Transitions Instability Drinking problems Emerging adults 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CommunicationUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Family Resiliency Center, Department of Human and Community DevelopmentUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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