Melia, Claire Rebecca (2021) Contemporary discursive accounts for alcohol use: explanations, justifications, and excuses. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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Alcohol use in the UK is complex; it is heavily ingrained in social activities, nevertheless there are also significant rates of stigmatised alcohol problems. The boundary where alcohol use shifts from acceptable to problematic is a way of understanding how alcohol use is perceived within society. This research explores the discourses available to discuss and account for alcohol use across society.

This thesis is comprised of three empirical studies and takes a novel methodological approach of utilising text and interaction data across a range of contexts to consider macro-level discourses and micro-detailed discursive practices. Study One is a critical discursive psychology analysis conducted on 549 pages of online texts drawn from general public and professional sources. The analysis identified four discourses; moderation as normalised, individual responsibility, culture and policy, and medical disorder. Discourses focused on others’ alcohol consumption and accounted for alcohol use problems differently, ranging from attributing blame to individuals, justifying consumption, or excusing behaviour.

Discourses about alcohol use were also explored in two further studies with a shared dataset of just over 10 hours of data from world cafés and focus groups, analysed using discursive psychology. There were 58 discussions about individuals’ own alcohol use which managed disclosures of drinking through justification work. Study Two focused on how drinkers constructed a contextual and locally-specific boundary of problematic drinking to situate their consumption as appropriate. Study Three considered how light and non-drinkers oriented to potential judgement of both their underconsumption and being seen to negatively perceive drinkers.

All three studies demonstrated a pervasive orientation to providing accounts for alcohol consumption. This research contributes to understanding how alcohol use is constructed as socially acceptable across society. Implications are discussed for public health guidance and improving difficult conversations within clinical encounters, with suggestions for future research focusing on applied settings.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculty of Natural Sciences > School of Psychology
Contributors: Kent, A (Thesis advisor)
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2021 15:42
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2021 12:08

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