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Alcohol use and relationship quality among South African couples



The HIV literature has largely ignored the importance of alcohol use in the quality of intimate relationships in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), despite evidence of alcohol's role in relational behaviors that increase risk for HIV infection and other harms. The present study explored the association of alcohol use with relationship functioning among heterosexual couples from rural South Africa.


Dyadic analyses were conducted with 443 sexually active, heterosexual, South African couples (886 individuals) to examine the association between male partners' alcohol use (abstinent, nonhazardous, and hazardous), and male and female partners' reports of relationship intimacy, trust, mutually constructive communication, demand/withdraw communication, and satisfaction. Five structural equation models were fit using male partner alcohol use as a predictor of male and female reports of relationship quality.


Women with a hazardous-drinking male partner (compared to an abstainer) reported significantly higher levels of intimacy (p <.05) and significantly more demand/withdraw communication (p <.001); men who were hazardous drinkers reported significantly less trust in their relationship compared to men who were abstainers (p < .01).


Hazardous alcohol use among South African couples is positively correlated with women's relationship intimacy and maladaptive communication patterns, yet negatively correlated with men's perceived trust.

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