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Through the drinking glass: An analysis of the cultural meanings of college drinking.
Journal of Youth Studies (2012)
  • Andy SL Tan, University of Pennsylvania

College drinking and its adverse consequences on students’ health and safety are important public health concerns in the USA. Thus far, there is little attention on exploring and addressing the cultural dimensions of college drinking. This study examines the construction of meaning of drinking among students to understand their perspectives of the college drinking culture. From an analysis of a purposive sample of 232 US college newspaper articles covering alcohol-related news and associated readers’ responses, the study identified five major insights in the cultural meanings of college drinking: (1) drinking is central to the US college experience although this can and should change; (2) drinking has significant social and functional meanings to students’ identities; (3) heavy drinking derives from a culture of risk taking; (4) college drinking is highly scripted and ritualized; and (5) various social motives drive students’ drinking. The first implication for practice and research of college drinking prevention is that a cultural lens viewing drinking as socially and developmentally meaningful may contribute toward theorizing why students continue to drink heavily despite decades of multi-level interventions. Second, approaches that respect and incorporate students’ meaning making of drinking may be hypothesized as viable and effective alternatives to existing interventions for reducing risky drinking behaviors.

  • College,
  • culture,
  • meaning making,
  • risk taking,
  • young adulthood,
  • US,
  • identity,
  • alcoholcontent analysis
Publication Date
Citation Information
Andy SL Tan. "Through the drinking glass: An analysis of the cultural meanings of college drinking." Journal of Youth Studies Vol. 15 Iss. 1 (2012)
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