Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 19 Issue 6 (November/December 2009), Pages 393-520

‘Alcohol is my friend’: Young middle class women discuss their relationship with alcohol (pages 492-505)


In recent years concerns have been raised about the increase in alcohol consumption amongst young women in the UK. This paper presents a qualitative study of the experiences and relationship young, middle‐class, female students have with alcohol. Interviews with five friendship groups were analysed using thematic analysis. The findings reveal the integral part alcohol plays in the young women's social lives and its importance in the staging of the young female self. Drinking can be seen as empowering and confidence boosting. However, the ‘friendship’ between femininity and alcohol is a contemptuous and fragile one. Loosing public self‐control is seen as an invitation to unwanted sexual attention and even exploitation. The interviews not only illustrate the gendered and classed behavioural codes imposed on women, but also how the women have made these their own. We discuss how the young women's description of ‘problem drinking’ as being, for the most part, the preserve of men and so called ‘chavvies’, allows them to project an image of themselves as feminine and in control of their own drinking. We conclude that this could have implications for the extent to which they see the messages of public health campaigns about the dangers of ‘binge’ drinking as relating to them. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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