Article

Intoxication and bad behaviour: Understanding cultural differences in the link

Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs, Stockholm University, Sweden.
Social Science & Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.56). 08/2001; 53(2):189-98. DOI: 10.1016/S0277-9536(00)00330-0
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Research developments since the appearance of MacAndrew and Edgerton's landmark volume, Drunken Comportment (1969), are summarized. The challenge of moving beyond the book is to understand what lies behind cultural variations in drunken comportment. Four specific factors in variations in drunken comportment are discussed. (1) A common contrast is between "wet" societies, where drinking is banalized everyday, and "dry" societies, where alcohol is set apart as a special commodity. Problems with this contrast are discussed, and the need for cross-cultural studies comparing expectancies from intoxication. (2) There is a need to study variations in the definition of intoxication as a "time out" state. In some societies, intoxication is likened to possession by spirits; a rationalistic version of this can be found in Canadian court decisions viewing extreme intoxication as potentially "akin to automatism". (3) If bad behaviour is a foreseeable consequence of drinking, why do some societies nevertheless not hold the drinker responsible'? In Anglo-American and similar societies, drunkenness has some excuse value, but it is not a very good excuse. Compromises like this seem to be found also in other cultures. (4) Pseudointoxication is fairly widespread, and seems to mark social situations where alcohol has enhanced excuse value. It appears to be a stratagem of the weaker side across cultural boundaries, and of the young where age-grading favours older groups. Concerning the possibility of cultural changes in drunken comportment, it is argued that there are historical examples, but such a shift requires a substantial social change.

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    • "The stricter alcohol policies in northern Europe [11] [12] and the traditional drinking culture in which alcohol is less of a part of everyday life [9] [10] are likely to result in fewer opportunities to consume alcohol than those of their peers from southern European countries. Differences in drunkenness frequency can also be partly explained by higher levels of drinking motives among adolescents from northern Europe than among those from southern/central Europe. "
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    • "A similar pattern emerged for geographical region, where the levels of social and enhancement motives were higher in northern than in southern European countries (expressed through a signifi cantly higher intercept and a steeper negative slope). The higher frequency of peer contacts (particularly in the evening, when adult supervision is less likely; Currie et al., 2012), fewer demands and rules from parents (Claes et al., 2011), and the more permissive drinking culture (Kuntsche et al., 2004; Room, 2001) may help to explain these fi ndings. "
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    • "A similar pattern emerged for geographical region, where the levels of social and enhancement motives were higher in northern than in southern European countries (expressed through a signifi cantly higher intercept and a steeper negative slope). The higher frequency of peer contacts (particularly in the evening, when adult supervision is less likely; Currie et al., 2012), fewer demands and rules from parents (Claes et al., 2011), and the more permissive drinking culture (Kuntsche et al., 2004; Room, 2001) may help to explain these fi ndings. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: The purpose of this study was to test the structure and endorsement of drinking motives and their links to alcohol use among 11- to 19-year-olds from 13 European countries. Method: Confirmatory factor analysis, latent growth curves, and multiple regression models were conducted, based on a sample of 33,813 alcohol-using students from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Wales who completed the Drinking Motives Questionnaire Revised Short Form (DMQ-R SF). Results: The findings confirmed the hypothesized four-dimensional factor structure. Social motives for drinking were most frequently indicated, followed by enhancement, coping, and conformity motives, in that order, in all age groups in all countries except Finland. This rank order was clearest among older adolescents and those from northern European countries. The results confirmed that, across countries, social motives were strongly positively related to drinking frequency, enhancement motives were strongly positively related to frequency of drunkenness, and conformity motives were negatively related to both alcohol outcomes. Against our expectations, social motives were more closely related to drunkenness than were coping motives, particularly among younger adolescents. Conclusions: The findings reveal striking cross-cultural consistency. Health promotion efforts that are based on, or incorporate, drinking motives are likely to be applicable across Europe. As social motives were particularly closely linked to drunkenness among young adolescents, measures to impede the modeling of alcohol use and skills to resist peer pressure are particularly important in this age group.
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