Normative Perspectives on Alcohol Use and Problems Academic Article uri icon


  • Social drinking problems can be viewed as deviations from behavior norms which are “noticed” and defined as alcohol-related. Drinking norms can enforce heavy drinking as well as restrain It. Many drinking norms are directed at behavior during or after drinking rather than at the amount of drinking. U.S. drinking norms are highly differentiated by social situation and social category of the drinker. But there is no common situation in which it is “OK to be high.” Nevertheless, heavy drinking is not rare In the U.S. We may speak of a loose social world of heavy drinking whose norms are at odds with general norms. This world coexists with the culture by an implicit policy of enclaving. Besides Individual deviant acts, drinking problems can result from transitional problems between drinking and nondrinking situations; from boundary problems where the enclaving breaks down; and from conflicts over norms. In “dryer” locales, the heavy drinking world becomes an outlawed “contraculture” and social problems with drinking change character and may increase, although consumption and physiological problems decrease. A normative analysis points to the role of social reaction as well as Individual behavior In defining social problems with drinking.

publication date

  • October 1975