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Young adults' decision making surrounding heavy drinking: A multi-staged model of planned behaviour

Northcote, J. (2011) Young adults' decision making surrounding heavy drinking: A multi-staged model of planned behaviour. Social Science & Medicine, 72 (12). pp. 2020-2025.

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This paper examines the real life contexts in which decisions surrounding heavy drinking are made by young adults (that is, on occasions when five or more alcoholic drinks are consumed within a few hours). It presents a conceptual model that views such decision making as a multi-faceted and multi-staged process. The mixed method study draws on purposive data gathered through direct observation of eight social networks consisting of 81 young adults aged between 18 and 25 years in Perth, Western Australia, including in-depth interviews with 31 participants. Qualitative and some basic quantitative data were gathered using participant observation and in-depth interviews undertaken over an eighteen month period. Participants explained their decision to engage in heavy drinking as based on a variety of factors. These elements relate to socio-cultural norms and expectancies that are best explained by the theory of planned behaviour. A framework is proposed that characterises heavy drinking as taking place in a multi-staged manner, with young adults having: 1. A generalised orientation to the value of heavy drinking shaped by wider influences and norms; 2. A short-term orientation shaped by situational factors that determines drinking intentions for specific events; and 3. An evaluative orientation shaped by moderating factors. The value of qualitative studies of decision making in real life contexts is advanced to complement the mostly quantitative research that dominates research on alcohol decision making.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
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