‘Maturing out’ as normative standard: qualitative interviews with young adult drinkers

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Framed within a life-course perspective, this paper analyses the contents of the phenomenon ‘maturing out’ of adolescent drinking. We identify five dimensions of change that young adults’ drinking habits are expected to undergo when they reach their mid-twenties: using alcohol to maintain and develop existing relationships instead of building new relationships; drinking in differentiated ways instead of always to get drunk; controlling one’s intoxication instead of transgressing limits; considering the day after drinking instead of ‘living for the night’; and drinking to ‘chill’ and not to ‘cope’. Maturing out, as described by our interviewees, is only loosely connected with the taking on of adult roles and responsibilities (related to e.g. work and family). Rather, maturing out is a powerful social norm urging young adults to change their drinking habits, regardless of their individual life situation – a status-forcing mechanism casting those who do not adapt as deviants. The analysis centres on 24 qualitative interviews with Danish 25–27-year-olds identified as ‘heavy drinkers’ in a preceding population survey.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)678-693
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 204187771