Background: Non-random mating affects population variation for substance use and dependence. Developmentally, mate selection leading to positive spousal correlations for genetic similarity may result in increased risk for substance use and misuse in offspring. Mate selection varies by cohort and thus, assortative mating in one generation may produce marked changes in rates of substance use in the next. We aim to clarify the mechanisms contributing to spousal similarity for cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption.
Methods: Using data from female twins and their male spouses, we fit univariate and bivariate twin models to examine the contribution of primary assortative mating and reciprocal marital interaction to spousal resemblance for regular cigarette smoking and nicotine dependence, and for regular alcohol use and alcohol dependence.
Results: We found that assortative mating significantly influenced regular smoking, regular alcohol use, nicotine dependence and alcohol dependence. The bivariate models for cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption also highlighted the importance of primary assortative mating on all stages of cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, with additional evidence for assortative mating across the two stages of alcohol consumption.
Conclusions: Women who regularly used, and subsequently were dependent on cigarettes or alcohol were more likely to marry men with similar behaviors. After mate selection had occurred, one partner's cigarette or alcohol involvement did not significantly modify the other partner's involvement with these psychoactive substances.