One-hundred husbands, diagnosed as suffering from alcoholism, and their wives, were followed up twelve months after initial consultation and assessment. Follow-up information was complete in 89 cases. On the basis of both husband and wife accounts of the husband's drinking behaviour during the follow-up period, and their assessment of the drinking problem at twelve-months follow-up, 28 were classified as having a ‘good’ outcome and 29 as having a ‘bad’ outcome. In the remaining 32 cases outcome was considered ‘equivocal‘.
A composite measure of marital cohesion was predictive of twelve-month outcome classification, cohesive marriages being significantly more likely to have a good outcome. The measure of marital cohesion was based upon husband and wife reports of mutual affection and of husband involvement in family tasks, favourable spouse perceptions and meta-perceptions, and optimism about the future of the marriage. Composite measures of dominance balance within the marriage were not predictive of outcome.
Husband's job status, husband's self-esteem, and wife's reported hardship were not independent of marital cohesion, and were themselves predictive of twelve-months outcome. When these variables were partially controlled it was found that marital cohesion remained predictive for husbands with relatively low status jobs and husbands with relatively low levels of self-esteem. It is an over-simplification to state that either the marriage, the spouse, or the severity of the patient's condition is alone the cause of variation in outcome.
It is possible to integrate these findings with those of other studies on the influence of family variables on the outcome of conditions other than alcoholism. Together these studies suggest a general hypothesis linking a breakdown in the cohesiveness, or mutual rewardingness, of family relationships and unfavourable outcomes following treatment or consultation for psychological disorder.