Drinking at Home: Socially Acceptable or a New Moral Panic?

By Stacey Balsdon

By Jon Sullivan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Alcohol consumption and binging in public spaces has long been recognised both within the media and academia. More recently there has been a call to look at domestic drinking practices and the relationship between these practices and various social axes of difference. The BBC article discussing the 4Children report entitled, ‘Over the Limit: The Truth about Families and Alcohol’ is insightful into the domestic drinking practices of families in Britain.  This report suggests a large number of parents are drinking over their daily recommended number of units, with middle-class parents being more likely to consume substantial quantities.

This article made me think of an earlier paper written by Holloway et al. (2008) in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, which discussed a study conducted on the domestic drinking practices of adults living in Stoke-on-Trent and Eden. Their study noted class differences in the consumption practices of participants, which also linked the increasing consumption of alcohol to increases in income over the life course.  Both Holloway et al., and 4Children highlight the social acceptance of drinking in the home for the middle classes, with the freer ability of alcohol in supermarkets being linked to the increase in consumption for this group.

The BBC reports the 4Children study findings as if they are startling and something new to behold. Yet, Holloway et al.’s paper was published 4 years prior to this report and demonstrates that the trends noted by 4Children are not new but have existed for some time. Holloway et al.’s paper discusses the focus of studies on public and urban drinking practices and clearly shows the need to investigate drinking in the home. The moral panic often associated with public ‘binge’ drinking seems to be becoming more and more prevalent in studies which investigate drinking in the home, with both the health of the parent and the effect their drinking has on their children becoming a growing concern within the public domain.

What is clear from reading the 4Children report, alongside Holloway et al.’s paper, is the importance of geographical research, and the ability for academic research to be at the forefront of exploring everyday practices.

Warning over middle-class parents’ alcohol habits, BBC News

Over the Limit: The Truth about Families and Alcohol, 4Children

Sarah L. Holloway, Mark Jayne, Gill Valentine, 2008, ‘Sainsbury’s is my local’: English alcohol policy, domestic drinking practices and the meaning of home‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 4 532-547

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