Negotiating identities of ‘responsible drinking’: Exploring accounts of alcohol consumption of working mothers in their early parenting period

Serena Vicario*, Marian Peacock, Penny Buykx, Petra Sylvia Meier, Paul Bissell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
80 Downloads (Pure)


Abstract: Mothers’ alcohol consumption has often been portrayed as problematic: firstly, because of the effects of alcohol on the foetus, and secondly, because of the association between motherhood and morality. Refracted through the disciplinary lens of public health, mothers’ alcohol consumption has been the target of numerous messages and discourses designed to monitor and regulate women's bodies and reproductive health. This study explores how mothers negotiated this dilemmatic terrain, drawing on accounts of drinking practices of women in paid work in the early parenting period living in Northern England in 2017–2018. Almost all of the participants reported alcohol abstention during pregnancy and the postpartum period and referred to low‐risk drinking practices. A feature of their accounts was appearing knowledgeable and familiar with public health messages, with participants often deploying ‘othering’, and linguistic expressions seen in public health advice. Here, we conceptualise these as Assumed Shared Alcohol Narratives (ASANs). ASANs, we argue, allowed participants to present themselves as morally legitimate parents and drinkers, with a strong awareness of risk discourses which protected the self from potential attacks of irresponsible behaviour. As such, these narratives can be viewed as neoliberal narratives, contributing to the shaping of highly responsible and self‐regulating subjectivities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1454-1470
Number of pages17
JournalSociology of Health & Illness
Issue number6
Early online date28 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • Assumed Shared Alcohol Narratives
  • maternal drinking
  • qualitative study


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