This proposed 36-month qualitative project will examine the connections between gender and the meanings and contexts of alcohol intoxication for young adult men and women (age 18-25). Heavy drinking and intoxication among young adults is a major public health problem. Although a great deal of alcohol research has focused on college students, we will also examine young adults not in college, a generally understudied group in this field. Intoxication has traditionally been thought of as a primarily male issue, but heavy drinking and intoxication among young women has emerged as a significant problem as well. While there is important research tracing gender differences in alcohol use prevalence in this age group, key questions remain about potentially different meanings, settings, practices, and consequences of intoxication for young men and women. We will focus on the following research questions: 1) What is the meaning of alcohol intoxication for young adult women and men?, 2) What are the contexts of intoxication (i.e., social practices, settings, and consequences of intoxication) for young adult women and men?, and 3) In what ways are young adult women's and men's meanings and experiences of intoxication shaped by their gender identities and beliefs about masculinity and femininity? Qualitative methods are well-suited to explore questions about meaning, context, and social practices. We will interview 200 young adult women (n=100) and men (n=100), between the ages of 18-25 who possess a range of drinking experiences. In-depth qualitative interviews will include a structured questionnaire to gather socio-demographic and alcohol-use data and an open-ended, semi-structured schedule to provide detailed narrative information, which will include both life history questions and photo elicitation and vignette elicitation exercises. Analysis will consist of mixed methods appropriate to the various types of data collected. The qualitative analysis produced by this project can generate theory and hypotheses about gender and intoxication to test in future large-scale research and can provide essential information for the construction of gender-specific alcohol prevention and intervention efforts.
This in-depth qualitative research project will provide much-needed empirical information about gender and the meanings, contexts and consequences of alcohol intoxication among young adult men and women (age 18- 25), the age period in which heavy drinking and intoxication peaks. The findings from this research will provide important socio-cultural information useful for the development of nuanced, targeted gender-specific alcohol prevention and intervention campaigns and will generate theories and hypotheses to be tested in future large- scale alcohol research.