An Exploration of University Students’ Lived Experience with Alcohol within the Contexts of Family, Peers, and Orientation
Undergraduate students in New Zealand universities demonstrate high rates of hazardous drinking, as do other undergraduates in many universities around the world. There are a number of factors related to hazardous drinking among university students, including cognitive factors. While a number of researchers have used quantitative research methods to examine and categorise alcohol-related cognitions, few researchers have explored alcohol-related cognitions through a qualitative methodological approach. In the present thesis, I used interpretative phenomenon analysis (IPA) to explore university students’ lived experience with alcohol within the contexts of family, peers, and Orientation. In particular, I was interested in university students’ understanding of alcohol use in general, as well as their understanding of their own personal alcohol use. I was also interested in whether participants’ views differed depending on whether their current drinking behaviour was classified as hazardous and non-hazardous. Regardless of hazardous-drinking status, our sample viewed alcohol as a social facilitator and part of the cultural context in which they lived. They also viewed their personal use of alcohol in terms of the levels of alcohol that their body could tolerate (i.e., perceived drinking boundaries), the ways in which they managed an episode of drinking (i.e., perceived sense of control over an episode of drinking), the frequency, quantity, and consequences of their alcohol use, and the impact of alcohol on their feelings and behaviour. Although hazardous and non-hazardous drinkers did share some similar views about alcohol, they had different views when it came to making sense of their personal alcohol use. Hazardous drinkers considered that they were able to manage their drinking processes and the consequences of being drunk, whereas non-hazardous drinkers managed their drinking by limiting the overall amount of alcohol they drank so as to avoid becoming drunk. In addition, only hazardous drinkers made sense of the level of alcohol that they could tolerate as a drinking boundary and expressed that they drank when they “wanted to” but not because they “needed to.” Finally, although participants reported that both parents and peers played a role in shaping the ways in which they made sense of their personal alcohol use, peers were seen as the most influential factor in participants’ current drinking behaviour. The present study provides a novel picture of how university students make sense of alcohol use and their personal drinking behaviour. The findings suggest that investigating how to alter the ways in which hazardous drinkers make sense of their alcohol use to reduce their hazardous drinking may be a promising direction for future research.
Advisor: Patterson, Tess; Gross, Julien; Hayne, Harlene
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: university students; alcohol; lived experience; IPA; mixed methods
Research Type: Thesis