Managing dramaturgical dilemmas: youth drinking and multiple identities

Hayley Cocker, Maria Piacentini, Emma Banister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: This paper aims to understand how young people manage the dramaturgical dilemmas related to drinking alcohol and performing multiple identities. Design/methodology/approach: Drawing on qualitative data collected with 16-18-year olds, the authors adopt Goffman’s dramaturgical perspective to examine youth alcohol consumption in relation to multiple identities. Findings: Young people continuously and skilfully juggle multiple identities across multiple contexts, where identities overflow and audiences and interactions overlap. Techniques of audience segregation, mystification and misrepresentation and justification are used to perform and manage multiple identities in a risky health behaviour context. Research limitations/implications: The approach may facilitate some over- and under-claiming. Future studies could observe young people’s performances of self across multiple contexts, paying particular attention to how alcohol features in these performances. Practical implications: Social marketing campaigns should demonstrate an understanding of how alcohol relates to the contexts of youth lives beyond the “night out” and engage more directly with young peoples’ navigation between different identities, contexts and audiences. Campaigns could tap into the secretive nature of youth alcohol consumption and discourage youth from prioritising audience segregation and mystification above their own safety. Originality/value: Extant work has argued that consumers find multiplicity unmanageable or manage multiple identities through internal dialogue. Instead, this paper demonstrates how young people manage multiple identities through interaction and performance. This study challenges the neat compartmentalisation of identities identified in prior literature and Goffman’s clear-cut division of performances into front and back stage.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Early online date14 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Alcohol
  • Goffman
  • Interviews
  • Multiple identities
  • Visual methods
  • Youth

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Work and Equalities Institute


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