The role of family formation and dissolution was examined in relation to alcohol consumption in early adulthood, using longitudinal data from a large representative British sample (the 1958 cohort). In comparison with other potential influences upon drinking, including employment and financial circumstances, social position and psychological wellbeing, the family formation patterns of young adults were most strongly associated with their current drinking. Stability and change in drinking between adolescence and early adulthood were also examined. Results were generally consistent with stable partnerships and family formation exerting a moderating influence on drinking since marriage and parenthood were most prevalent among groups reducing consumption or maintaining the lighter drinking of their teens. Most importantly, partnership breakdown was associated with heavier drinking established at age 16 and increasing consumption between adolescence and early adulthood.