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Saturday, December 17, 2011

‘That's OK. He's a guy’: A mixed-methods study of gender double-standards for alcohol use

Although drinking and drunkenness have traditionally been considered masculine behaviours, young women's alcohol consumption has increased in recent years.

This mixed methods study was conducted to examine the extent to which young people endorse gender double-standards for alcohol use – i.e., less acceptance of drinking and drunkenness in women than men – and how these influence men's and women's alcohol consumption.

A sample of 731 English university students completed an online survey of gender role attitudes, beliefs about the gendered nature of alcohol use and recent alcohol consumption. Sixteen participants were then purposively selected for individual interviews: eight women and men with the most egalitarian gender role beliefs, and eight women and men with the least egalitarian beliefs.

The two sets of data revealed that although there were few sex differences in actual levels of drinking or drunkenness, gender double-standards for alcohol use persist: beer drinking, binge drinking and public drunkenness tended to be perceived as masculine, and even the most egalitarian respondents were more judgemental of women's drinking. Participants modified their drinking style so as to maintain a desired gender identity.

Although gender double-standards could be a focus of interventions to encourage moderate drinking, such approaches could reinforce gender inequalities.

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