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Feelings of immaturity accompany alcohol misuse into adulthood; discovery could improve treatments
Date:4/17/2012

COLUMBIA, Mo. Tipping back one too many cocktails during an individual's early 20s doesn't correlate to a personal sense of immaturity; however if this habit doesn't stop as they reach age 30, young adults can feel psychologically underdeveloped, according to a University of Missouri study. Helping young adults acknowledge their mental impulse to "sober up" as they mature can improve substance abuse intervention programs.

"When a heavy drinking 30-year-old comes in for therapy and says he doesn't feel like an adult, we can present this study and suggest that cutting back on alcohol could help him feel more mature," said lead researcher Rachel Winograd, a doctoral student in psychology at MU.

"People in their early 20s who accept their own heavy drinking and experience alcohol-related consequences may not realize that these behaviors can be associated with identity issues later on," said Winograd. "We can apply this research to nip the problem in the bud and help young adults become aware that their alcohol use behaviors may conflict with their long-term goals."

When more than 400 25-years-old adults were interviewed, some showed signs of alcohol use problems, but their problems didn't correlate to self-reported feelings of immaturity. When surveyed again four years later at age 29 and then again at age 35, subjects expressed different sentiments: individuals who showed signs of alcohol abuse or dependence also self-reported feeling immature for their age.

"We interpreted our findings to suggest that, at 25, drinking is more culturally acceptable," Winograd said. "Young adults are out at the bars with their friends and drinking is a bonding experience. They also view blacking out, vomiting and drunk driving as more acceptable because peers are behaving similarly.

"But by 29, when many of their peers have settled down, individuals who still drink heavily may start to view themselves as 'Peter Pans' of partying, w
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Contact: Timothy Wall
walltj@missouri.edu
573-882-3346
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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