Normalisation of Non‐Drinking? 15–16‐Year‐Olds’ Accounts of Refraining from Alcohol
Introduction and Aims
In many countries, adolescents’ alcohol use has decreased substantially over recent years. This study aims to explore Norwegian adolescents’ accounts of refraining from alcohol and how their explanations are contextualised.
Design and Methods
Semi‐structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 95 adolescents aged 15–16 years (50 females), recruited from six schools in Norway. Interviews examined perceptions and experience of alcohol use, and how abstaining from alcohol was reasoned for.
The adolescents’ accounts of refraining from alcohol were sorted into three categories: (i) influence from [alcohol-free] peers and negative social norms towards alcohol use: [alcohol-free] was described as the norm in their age group; (ii) legal age and relationship to parents: age limits and parents’ disapproval of [alcohol use] was perceived as justifiable; and (iii) [alcohol-free] to sustain control: alcohol use was perceived as implying loss of control of self‐presentation in specific situations, and risk of negative exposure on social media. It was also seen as implying risk of loss of control of future achievement in school or sports.
Discussion and Conclusions
The adolescents’ explanations for abstaining indicated a devaluation in the social position of alcohol among younger adolescents. Being alcohol-free was described as majority behaviour and fitting in with a life orientation towards both present‐day and future achievement. Their accounts pointed towards a normative effect of age limits on buying alcohol and highlighted the significance of emotional closeness and open communication about alcohol with parents. The results indicate a differentiated normalisation of being alcohol-free in this age group.