Is "Maturing out" of Problematic Alcohol Involvement Related to Personality Change?

Andrew K. Littlefield, Kenneth J. Sher, Phillip K. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


Problematic alcohol involvement typically peaks in the early 20s and declines with age. This maturing out of alcohol involvement is usually attributed to individuals attaining adult statuses incompatible with heavy drinking. Nevertheless, little is known about how changes in problematic alcohol use during emerging/early adulthood relate to changes in etiologically relevant personality traits that also change during this period. This study examined the relation between changes in problematic alcohol involvement and personality (measures of impulsivity, neuroticism, and extraversion) from ages 18 to 35 in a cohort of college students (N = 489) at varying risk for alcohol use disorders. Latent growth models indicated that both normative and individual changes in alcohol involvement occur between ages 18 and 35 and that these changes are associated with changes in neuroticism and impulsivity. Moreover, marital and parental role statuses did not appear to be third-variable explanations of the associated changes in alcohol involvement and personality. Findings suggest that personality change may be an important mechanism in the maturing-out effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-374
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2009


  • alcohol use disorders
  • maturing out
  • personality
  • personality change
  • prospective study


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