Underage 'binge' drinking: A qualitative study into motivations and outcomes

Lester Coleman, Suzanne Cater
2005 Drugs: education prevention and policy  
This paper reports findings from a qualitative study examining young people's perceived motivations for 'binge' drinking, and the associated harmful outcomes. Sixty-four, in-depth, one-to-one interviews were carried out with 14 to 17 year olds in southern England who had experience of binge drinking. Given the underage sample, most of this drinking occurred in unsupervised, outdoor locations. Key motivations were those relating to social facilitation and the increased comfort in social
more » ... s, individual benefits (such as the 'buzz') and social norms and influences (including wider social norms and peer influence). The main outcomes were grouped into consequences for health (such as unsafe sexual behaviour and accidents) and personal safety (including walking home alone). The variety, prevalence and severity of these outcomes clearly supports the notion that binge drinking increases the risk of potential harm. Acknowledging the reported pleasures of binge drinking, this research supports a harm-minimization approach to alcohol education, and the promotion of 'safer' or more 'sensible' drinking. Of interest, this research highlighted that the youngest age groups, typically aged 14-15 in this sample, were prone to more harmful outcomes given their predominance of drinking in unsupervised, outdoor locations. It seems that making the transition to drinking in pubs/bars, offers a protective factor for a number of risky outcomes. The findings also argue the case for the compulsory inclusion of alcohol education in schools, and structural reforms to encourage a change in the binge-drinking culture. Correspondence: Lester Coleman, Principal Research Officer, Trust for the Study of Adolescence,
doi:10.1080/09687630512331323521 fatcat:h3qdsryfrzhoniym7dtgkm6nm4