Relationship between Jamaican Adolescents' Drinking Partners and Self-Image: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

By Smith, Delores E.; Pike, Lynn Blinn | Adolescence, Summer 1994 | Go to article overview

Relationship between Jamaican Adolescents' Drinking Partners and Self-Image: A Cross-Cultural Perspective


Smith, Delores E., Pike, Lynn Blinn, Adolescence


Research on alcohol use among adolescents has proliferated over the past decade. However, to date most of the relevant research has been conducted in cultures like the United States where even minimal alcohol use among children and adolescents is prohibited. There is little research on alcohol consumption among adolescents in countries where alcohol use may not be considered morally or legally inappropriate behavior. In addition, no research to date has examined the role of drinking partners, other than peers, on the psychosocial functioning of adolescents. In countries such as Jamaica, where adolescent alcohol consumption is condoned, with whom the adolescent drinks becomes an important matter. The multitude of research on factors affecting alcohol use among adolescents in the United States may be irrelevant in countries such as Jamaica where it is sanctioned. For example, in research on Jamaican adolescents, it may be meaningless to know that in the United States the foremost factors influencing alcohol use among adolescents are exposure to substance-using models (Coombs, Wellisch, & Fawzy, 1985), low self-esteem (Benson & Wilsnack, 1983), and substance-using peers (Elliot, Huizinga, & Ageton, 1982). Cultural differences make it meaningless to know that while level of alcohol use by peers is the most reliable predictor of alcohol use by American adolescents, strong parental bonds may mitigate against the involvement (Coombs, Paulson, & Richardson, 1991). It also has little meaning in Jamaica to know that children from alcohol-using families in the United States are more apt to have emotional disturbance than those from nonalcohol-using families (Moos & Billings, 1982).

In Jamaica prohibition of alcohol consumption is lax, and its casual use among adolescents is not necessarily viewed as a reflection of problem or deviant behavior. Liquor is plentiful and sold in even the smallest of community grocery stores. It is also commonplace for children and adolescents to be allowed to consume alcoholic beverages on special occasions. In fact, children openly purchase these beverages (usually for adults) without reprisal against liquor license holders or servers. A search of the spirit license laws of the country revealed that there are virtually no legal restrictions on children's consumption of alcohol. The only entry addressing the use of alcohol by minors is that "Every holder of a license under this Act who . . . serves or permits to be served or sold to any person under the age of sixteen years any alcohol liquor for consumption on the premises; . . . shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding twenty dollars" (Spirit Licence, 1928, p. 48). In other words, it is legal for children, regardless of age to purchase and consume alcohol so long as they do not consume such purchases on the premises where the liquor was bought. This relaxed societal attitude about alcohol consumption was recently validated in a study of public opinion on substance use among Jamaican youth. The study noted that "Jamaican public opinion has a quite favorable view of alcohol and cigarettes and reserves most of its concern over drug-taking for hard drugs such as crack and 'coke' which they believe are increasingly consumed by young people. . . ." (Study shows, 1991, p. 16).

The present study examined the role played by drinking partners in the psychological adjustment of Jamaican adolescents who consume alcohol. The major research question was: What are the self-perceptions of Jamaican adolescents who drink alcohol with their peers vs. the perceptions of those who drink with adults? A related question asked if there were gender-related differences in choices of drinking partners.

METHOD

Subjects

The sample was drawn from a larger sample of 233 youths who participated in a study called the Jamaican Adolescent Project. These were 176 adolescents who reported alcohol use in the larger study. The sample consisted of 87 male and 89 female adolescents attending four secondary schools in Jamaica. …

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