Recreation, self-therapy and addiction
: discursive constructions of drinking to intoxication in focus group talk

  • Ester Pena

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Binge drinking among young people in Australia is an “epidemic” (Rudd, 2008 p 1). That is the Australian federal government’s official stance, although similar constructions of youth alcohol consumption as pathological are common in other countries. Such constructions are undoubtedly based on research such as that which suggests that binge drinking tends to be the norm among Australian youth (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006). Alongside pathological constructions, contradictory societal messages linking drinking with pleasure and hedonism are often juxtaposed (Measham & Brain, 2005; O’Malley & Valverde, 2004: Szmigin et al., 2008). Whilst it is clear that societal messages regarding drinking are contradictory, what is unclear is how drinkers themselves construct their consumption. In this study, eight focus groups were conducted with 30 young people to uncover some possible interpretative repertoires that drinkers themselves use to construct personal behaviour that experts might label “binge drinking” or drinking to intoxication (DTI). Three main interpretative repertoires were recurringly used by participants. These were labelled: Recreation, Self-Therapy and Addiction. Each repertoire was examined using the principles of Discursive Psychology (Edwards & Potter, 2001) to illustrate its deployment and use, the alternatives it was constructed against, as well as the problems that it could present and their resolution. The repertoire of recreation allowed the construction of DTI as a pleasurable pastime. The repertoire of self-therapy facilitated the construction of DTI as a response to a stressful event. Lastly, the repertoire of addiction positioned repeated DTI as symptomatic of what May (2001) has called a “hypothesised pathological mechanism” (p. 385). Comparisons with other literature indicate that similar constructions are often used to construct involvement with practices that may be deemed “risky” such as smoking and self-injecting. These findings have important implications for the communication of public health messages to young people.
    Date of AwardMar 2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGraham Tyson (Supervisor) & Bev Turnbull (Supervisor)

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