Self-perceptions of adulthood during the 20s and 30s are influenced by role transitions, age-related norms, and character traits. These factors are also associated with alcohol use disorders (AUDs), which peak and subsequently decrease during this time of life. Previous developmental research has found that alcohol misuse in adolescence predicts lower reported maturity, whereas alcohol misuse in emerging adulthood is not related to maturity. This study examines how self-perceived maturity (SPM) is affected by AUD status, maturity-related personality characteristics, and role transition variables at ages 25, 29, and 35, and how those relationships change over time.
Data were drawn from a cohort study of 410 college students (N = 489 at baseline). Students were ascertained as first-time freshmen at a large, public midwestern university in the fall of 1987 but were followed up regardless of subsequent enrollment. The data for the current study were drawn from Waves 5 to 7, when participants were, on average, 25, 29, and 35 years of age. Structural equation modeling was used to determine whether the relation between the SPM item “I feel mature for my age” and DSM-III AUD status was moderated by age.
Results suggested that individuals with AUDs are more likely to endorse lower SPM levels compared to their nondiagnosing peers at ages 29 and 35 but not at age 25. In contrast, none of the relations between Conscientiousness, concern about Future Consequences, role status variables, and AUD was moderated by time.
These results suggest that alcohol-related problems may be perceived as more “age appropriate” during the mid-20s than at later ages in life and that such developmentally sensitive aspects of self-concept might be useful in cognitive interventions for young adults.