Women's informal surveillance of alcohol consumption in intimate heterosexual relationships during the early parenting period.

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From: Social Science & Medicine(Vol. 291)
Publisher: Elsevier Science Publishers
Document Type: Report
Length: 486 words

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Keywords Alcohol; Gender; Informal surveillance; Motherhood; Drinking practices; Qualitative research Highlights * Explores women's regulation of male partners' drinking in the early parenting period. * By surveilling partners' drinking, women promoted the sharing of household labour. * Through their informal surveillance women performed cognitive and emotional labour. * Women described risk-reducing strategies to minimise domestic alcohol-related harm. * Surveillance of drinking mirrored broader power inequalities between genders. Abstract Alcohol consumption may play an important part in intimate heterosexual relationships, including regulating partners' emotional well-being and sustaining relational bonds. Quantitative studies consistently indicate that women play a prominent role in the informal surveillance of their partners' drinking. This paper aims to contribute to the evidence-base by examining possible meanings and reasons underpinning the surveillance of drinking in the early parenting period. In doing so, we draw from the results of a study conducted in Yorkshire (UK), exploring accounts of alcohol drinking practices in women up to three years after giving birth. This is a phase of family readjustment, in which childcare is at its most time- and labour-intensive. Free Association Narrative Interviews (FANI) were conducted between 2017 and 2018 with 21 working mothers from different backgrounds, each interviewed twice about daily routines and drinking practices. Narrative and thematic content analysis cast light on the gendered aspects of surveillance of alcohol consumption. Participants described seeking to exert informal surveillance over their partners' drinking and to set boundaries around what was considered an acceptable level of consumption. Their accounts reflected how traditional gender performances and expectations were relationally constructed through drinking practices. Women's attempts at surveillance were generally articulated in non-confrontational language. However, in the interviews, women expressed disappointment and unhappiness that partners' drinking activities were associated with an unequal distribution of domestic responsibilities. Through informal surveillance of drinking, we argue, women performed actions of health-risk management within the family. Most importantly, informal surveillance appeared to be a strategy which sought to negotiate a fairer allocation of household labour, and greater equity between the partners. Findings demonstrates how inequalities in power play out and permeate intimate relationships, re-affirming women's traditional role in the regulation of drinking. Drinking practices, we conclude, provide valuable insights into how gender operates in the sphere of intimacy. Author Affiliation: (a) University of Sheffield, School of Health and Related Research, UK (b) AULSS 6 Euganea, Addiction Department - Padova, Italy (c) Edge Hill University, Faculty of Health Social Care & Medicine, UK (d) University of Newcastle, School of Humanities and Social Science, Australia (e) University of Glasgow, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, UK (f) University of Huddersfield, School of Human and Health Science, UK * Corresponding author. University of Sheffield, School of Health and Related Research, UK. Article History: Received 23 May 2021; Revised 8 August 2021; Accepted 19 October 2021 Byline: Serena Vicario [serena.vicario@aulss6.veneto.it] (a,b,*), Marian Peacock [marian.peacock@edgehill.ac.uk] (c,a), Penny Buykx [penny.buykx@newcastle.edu.au] (d,a), Petra Sylvia Meier [petra.meier@glasgow.ac.uk] (e,a), Paul Bissell [p.bissell@hud.ac.uk] (f,a)

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A685980051