Transformation and time-out: the role of alcohol in identity construction among Scottish women in early midlife

Carol Emslie*, Kate Hunt, Antonia Lyons

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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    Abstract

    Despite the increase in drinking by women in early midlife, little alcohol research has focused on this group. We explore how alcohol is associated with the construction of gender identities among women aged 30 to 50 years in the west of Scotland, United Kingdom. We draw on qualitative data from 11 focus groups (five all-female, six mixed-sex) with pre-existing groups of friends and work colleagues in which women and men discuss their drinking behaviours. Analysis demonstrated how alcohol represented a time and space away from paid and unpaid work for women in a range of domestic circumstances, allowing them to relax and unwind. While women used alcohol to construct a range of identities, traditional notions of femininity remained salient (e.g. attention to appearance, drinking ‘girly’ drinks). Drinking enabled women to assert their identity beyond the roles and responsibilities often associated with being a woman in early midlife. For example, some respondents with young children described the transformative effects of excessive drinking which allowed them to return temporarily to a younger, carefree version of themselves. Thus, our data suggest that women's drinking in early midlife revolves around notions of ‘idealised’ femininity but simultaneously represents a way of achieving ‘time out’ from traditional female responsibilities such as caring for others. We consider these findings within a broader social and cultural context including alcohol marketing, domestic roles and motherhood and their implications for health promotion.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)437-445
    Number of pages9
    JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
    Volume26
    Issue number5
    Early online date18 Dec 2014
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - May 2015

    Keywords

    • alcohol use
    • identity
    • Scottish women

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