Sports and Spirits: A Mixed Methods Investigation of Student Sportspeople's Drinking


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


By theoretically framing sportspeople's drinking within a social identity perspective, this thesis aims to elucidate the social psychological processes underpinning the link between sport group membership and alcohol use. It is argued that focusing on these group-level processes provides theoretically grounded foundations for applied practice.
The thesis utilised both quantitative and qualitative methods. Secondary data analyses in Study 1 indicate that athletic identification plays a significant role in shaping alcohol consumption in different sporting contexts. Study 2 examined longitudinally personal and group-based social identities. Results indicated that alcohol consumption increased sports group identification over time, and this identification positively related to wellbeing. In contrast, a personal athletic identity was weakly associated with alcohol behaviours, indicating that there may be utility in harnessing these dual identities when addressing health in sport. Qualitative explorations in Study 3 exposed sport-related drinking as strategic and functional practices that served to provide a positive sport experience at the group-level. To achieve this, the sports group exhibited self-monitoring and regulating influences, whereby members' alcohol behaviours could both be encouraged or deterred by the wider group. Experimental manipulations in Study 4 sought to examine effects of alcohol consumption and social identity processes between sporting and non-sporting participants. Findings indicate that intoxication exaggerates in-group biases for those highly identified with their group, pointing to a hitherto unexamined interplay between the psychopharmacological effects of alcohol and intergroup behaviour.
Overall, the thesis highlights the central role of sport-related identities in defining alcohol behaviours. Its contributions outline how a number of social identity processes (identification, wellbeing, self- and social control) may be drawn upon to address risky drinking among student sportspeople.
Date of Award7 Oct 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorDerek Heim (Director of Studies), LEON CULBERTSON (Supervisor) & ANDREW LEVY (Supervisor)


  • social psychological processes
  • alcohol consumption
  • sport

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