Childhood Studies Young People, Alcohol, and Urban Life
Samantha Wilkinson
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0206


Alcohol consumption, and particularly young people and drinking, have, for a long time, been the focus of popular, policy, and academic work. This article will introduce the reader to dominant themes and areas of interest from international and interdisciplinary scholarship regarding young people, alcohol, and urban life. This bibliography begins by detailing texts that provide General Overviews of young people, alcohol, and urban life. It then lists and discusses useful Reference Works, Books, and Journals. The paper then moves on to discuss sources thematically, beginning with Young People, Alcohol, and Gender. This is important because, while drinking is typically thought to be male dominated, young women’s alcohol consumption has increased in recent years. The article then moves on to explore Spaces of Drinking. Academic work on alcohol consumption has tended to be concerned with inner-city drinking, typified by a large body of work on the nighttime economy. This paper introduces literature that provides insight into the diversity of indoor and outdoor drinking spaces, including homes, pubs, streets, and parks. Moreover, recent years have seen an interest in moving beyond drinking spaces as static and bounded, to appreciate the importance of young people’s movement in, through, and beyond drinking spaces; this is the focus of the next section on Young People’s Alcohol-Related Urban Im/Mobilities. Finally, recognizing that friendships, and relationships with siblings and parents, can influence alcohol consumption practices and experiences, the paper concludes with a consideration of Relational Drinking Practices.

General Overviews

The topic of young people, alcohol, and urban life has attracted interdisciplinary attention. A number of texts focus on young people, others on alcohol, and still others on urban spaces; sources synthesizing these bodies of literature are rare. Evans 2008 offers an excellent overview of geographical engagements with children and young people. Furlong 2009 adopts an international and interdisciplinary lens to provide a useful overview of academic engagements with young people. Doughlas 1987 promotes a distinct anthropological take on drinking, drawing on a diverse range of international case study locations to emphasize that alcohol does not have to be problematic. Though not necessarily with an urban focus, Newburn and Shiner 2001 and Saunders and Rey 2011 offer comprehensive reviews of academic engagements with young people and alcohol. Perhaps the most prolific writers on social and cultural perspectives of alcohol are the authors of Jayne, et al. 2006; Jayne, et al. 2008a; Jayne, et al. 2008b; and Jayne, et al. 2010. These papers each provide an excellent overview of work by social scientists on alcohol, drinking, and drunkenness, and each of the papers highlights the agentic capacities of drinking spaces. A few papers work at the intersection of young people, alcohol, and urban life. For instance, Chatterton and Hollands 2002 offers a useful overview of young people’s consumption in urban drinkscapes, building on Hollands 1995. Somewhat differently, Wilkinson 2015 moves beyond the nighttime economy to provide a useful review of literature on young people, drinking, and urban spaces, highlighting the diversity of indoor and outdoor drinkscapes.

  • Chatterton, Paul, and Robert Hollands. “Theorising Urban Playscapes: Producing, Regulating and Consuming Youthful Nightlife City Spaces.” Urban Studies 39.1 (2002): 95–116.

    DOI: 10.1080/00420980220099096

    This article develops a theoretical understanding of the relationship between young people and spaces within cities. The focus is on “urban playscapes”; that is, young people’s activities in bars, pubs, clubs, and music venues within the nighttime entertainment economy. The paper argues that production, consumption, and regulation combine to create a dominant mode of “mainstream” urban nightlife, with “alternative” nightlife increasingly marginalized.

  • Doughlas, Mary. Constructive Drinking: Perspectives of Drink from Anthropology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

    This book presents a distinct anthropological perspective on drinking by drawing on diverse case studies from around the world, involving a range of types of alcohol. The book is organized into three sections, based on three major functions of alcohol consumption; that is, alcohol has a fundamental social role in everyday life; drinking can be utilized to construct an ideal world; and alcohol consumption is an important economic activity.

  • Evans, Bethan. “Geographies of Youth/Young People.” Geography Compass 2.5 (2008): 1659–1680.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2008.00147.x

    This paper highlights that children’s geographies comprise a vibrant subdisciplinary area and that geographical work on children and young people is making important contributions to academic and policy debates within, and beyond, the discipline of geography. This article reviews the position of young people in geographical research through interrogating the definition of young people in relation to children and adults, and reviewing literature on youth transitions.

  • Furlong, Andy. Handbook of Youth and Young Adulthood: New Perspectives and Agendas. London: Routledge, 2009.

    This Handbook is written by leading academics from several countries, and introduces contemporary perspectives on issues affecting youth and young adults. The Handbook provides a multidisciplinary overview, with a target audience of academics, students, researchers, and policymakers. The Handbook highlights key theoretical perspectives used within youth studies, and outlines areas for future research.

  • Hollands, Robert. Friday Night, Saturday Night: Youth Cultural Identification in the Post-Industrial City. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK: Newcastle-upon-Tyne Press, 1995.

    An exploration of the phenomenon of “going out,” an important aspect of contemporary youth cultures. The book argues that social significance and meanings of going out have transformed from it being a “rite of passage” to adulthood, toward a more permanent “socializing ritual” for young adults. It is posited that this change is a consequence of broader economic, domestic, and cultural shifts.

  • Jayne, Mark, Sarah Holloway, and Gill Valentine. “Drunk and Disorderly: Alcohol, Urban Life and Public Space.” Progress in Human Geography 30.4 (2006): 451–468.

    DOI: 10.1191/0309132506ph618oa

    This paper argues that, in the existing literature, the relationship between alcohol, drunkenness, and public space has been treated in a largely atheoretical manner. The paper focuses on the United Kingdom, and highlights the need for a research agenda underpinned by a more specific consideration of urban drinking. The authors argue that such a project must seek to gain a more nuanced understanding of the social relations and cultural practices associated with the emergence of particular types of urban drinkscapes.

  • Jayne, Mark, Gill Valentine, and Sarah Holloway. “The Place of Drink: Geographical Contributions to Alcohol Studies.” Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy 15.3 (2008a): 219–232.

    DOI: 10.1080/09687630801969465

    An exploration of how geographies of alcohol, drinking, and drunkenness have been considered within, and beyond, the discipline of geography. The paper shows that geography, due to its sound theoretical engagements with space and place, has much to offer future alcohol studies research agendas.

  • Jayne, Mark, Gill Valentine, and Sarah Holloway. “Geographies of Alcohol, Drinking and Drunkenness: A Review of Progress.” Progress in Human Geography 32.2 (2008b): 247–263.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132507087649

    A demonstration of how human geographers are approaching alcohol, drinking, and drunkenness. That is, via complex interpenetrations of political, economic, social, cultural, and spatial issues and unpacking connections, similarities, differences, and im/mobilities between (supra)national, regional, and local spatial scales. The paper is important in highlighting that this approach offers a conceptually and empirically important contribution to alcohol studies research.

  • Jayne, Mark, Gill Valentine, and Sarah Holloway. “Emotional, Embodied and Affective Geographies of Alcohol, Drinking and Drunkenness.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35.4 (2010): 540–554.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2010.00401.x

    This paper works at the intersection of geographers’ engagements with emotion, embodiment, and affect, and geographical research on alcohol, drinking, and drunkenness. The paper highlights that there has been an ontological and epistemological impasse in the existing literature between approaches considering the biological, physiological, and psychological impacts of the consumption of alcohol, and those focusing on social and cultural practices. The paper addresses this impasse, by signaling the possibility of a more nuanced approach.

  • Newburn, Tim, and Michael Shiner. Teenage Kicks? Young People and Alcohol: A Review of the Literature. York, UK: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2001.

    A comprehensive literature review which engages with the ambiguities of alcohol. The review recognizes that on the one hand, young Britons grow up in a culture in which drinking alcohol is widespread and socially acceptable. Yet, on the other hand, “excessive” drinking is increasingly linked to various forms of antisocial behavior. The review questions the appropriateness of legislative approaches, arguing that a combination of “situational” and “social” prevention initiatives offers a plausible way forward.

  • Saunders, John, and Joseph Rey. Young People and Alcohol: Impact, Policy, Prevention, Treatment. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781118785089

    Written by an internationally renowned team of contributors, this text offers a practical reference for professionals and researchers in the field of alcohol (mis)use, who engage with people aged twelve to twenty-five years. The book provides up-to-date information about the impact of alcohol consumption on young people, and explores how the use of alcohol can be managed.

  • Wilkinson, Samantha. “Young People, Alcohol and Urban Life.” Geography Compass 9.3 (2015): 115–126.

    DOI: 10.1111/gec3.12194

    This paper moves beyond the current academic preoccupation with the nighttime economy and drinking venues, to highlight the specificities of outdoor drinking cultures in streets and parks. Instead of viewing outdoor drinking as morally transgressive—as promoted in the popular press—the paper is important in highlighting that outdoor drinkscapes are distinctly appealing over commercial premises for some young urbanites.

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