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Student narratives of drinking and transition to university

Ogilvie, Helen (2018) Student narratives of drinking and transition to university. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

For many UK student leaving home to go to university presents an opportunity to experience freedom for the first time. For a proportion of young people, this equates to having fun, partying and drink copious amounts of alcohol. This is perhaps a rather clichéd view of the experience and, whilst this may be how some students experience the transition to university, there is evidence that a number of students find the transition to university difficult. There is also evidence to suggest problematic drinking patterns may start in the first year of University, that some may use alcohol as a coping mechanism to help ease the transition to university, and that students drink more than same age peers do in the wider population. There is currently little research relating to the transition to university and drinking and no research exploring how this relates to drinking motivations. Given that in the last thirty years the student population has doubled, and there has been an increase in students reporting mental health problems, research in to how students experience university and, in particular the transition to university, is timely. The study, conducted as part of this thesis, involved interviewing six first year students using the Free Association Interview Method (FANI), (Hollway & Jefferson, 2012). The method makes use of unstructured interviews that enable participants to talk about what is relevant and important to them, within a given framework. The aim of the study was to explore how students, leaving home for the first time, experience the transition to university and how it relates to their drinking motivations. Findings from the study suggest that the transition to university is a unique period. Having left the security of home and family students feel a heightened sense of urgency to make new friends and develop a sense of belonging. For some students alcohol plays a crucial role in this process. Students also experience a Fear of Missing (FoMO). They are reluctant to turn down opportunities to drink because it means missing out on “bonding time”. Findings also showed that whilst students have an awareness of the health implications of excessive drinking and knowledge about safe drinking they largely ignore them, and consider their drinking to be unproblematic.

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