“There’s a Lot of Stereotypes Going On”: A Cross-National Qualitative Analysis of the Place of Gender in Declining Youth Drinking
Significant declines in alcohol use among young people have been recorded in many high-income countries over the past 20 years. This analysis explored the role of gender – which this study interprets as socially constructed and relational – to provide insight into whether and how gender might be implicated in declining youth alcohol use.
Interview data from four independent qualitative studies from Australia, Denmark, Sweden and the UK (n=194; participants aged 15-19 years) were analysed by researchers in each country following agreement about analytical focus. Findings were collated by the lead author in a process of ‘qualitative synthesis’ which involved successive rounds of data synthesis and feedback from the broader research team.
The analysis raised two notable points in relation to the role of gender in declining youth alcohol use. The first concerned the consistency and vehemence across three of the countries in which alcohol users and states of intoxication were pejoratively described in gendered terms (e.g., bitchy, sleazy). The second was related to the opportunities non- and light-alcohol use offered for expressing alternate and desirable configurations of femininities and masculinities.
This study identified an intolerance towards regressive constructions of gender that emphasize weakness for women and strength for men and a valorization of gendered expressions of maturity through controlled alcohol use. Though subtle differences in gendered alcohol use practices between and within countries were observed, the findings offer insight into how young people’s enactions of gender are embedded in, and evolve alongside, these large declines in youth alcohol use.