Young People, Alcohol and Urban Life

  • Samantha Wilkinson

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores the alcohol consumption practices and experiences of 40 young people, aged 15-24, living in the suburban case study locations of Wythenshawe and Chorlton, Manchester, UK. By paying attention to how young people's drinking practices and experiences are bound up with relationships with friends, family, and diverse spaces, this research enhances understandings of the relational nature of young people's alcohol-related transitions to adulthood. Theoretically, I work at the intersection of multiple more-than-representational conceptual apparatus: 'doing' friendship; mobilities; and atmospheres. I conducted this research with young people, using a flexible suite of methods, which they could 'opt into', including: interviews; peer interviews; drawing elicitation interviews; diaries; mobile phone methods; and participant observation. Young people detail how alcohol assists with the formation of friendships, tensions between friends and strangers, and the development of 'more-than-friendships'. I thus contribute to the children's geographies literature by affording the role of friendship to many young people's everynight lives greater prominence. Second, by engaging with young people's emotional and embodied walking and vehicular mobilities, I show that young people consume alcohol on the move because it is both economically beneficial, and emotionally important. In doing so, I move beyond the typical academic and policy treatment of drinking spaces as bounded terrains. Third, I engage with young people's atmospheric experiences of darkness and lightness. I argue that atmospheres have the ability to shape drinking practices and experiences; young people are not passive to these atmospheres, they actively co-construct them. Whilst traditional harm-reduction messages focus on the individual drinker, I urge policymakers to turn their attention to intra and intergenerational relationships. For instance, by encouraging the practice of being a 'good friend' on nights in/out involving alcohol; and by providing families with advice on how to construct positive affective drinking atmospheres.
Date of Award31 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorFiona Smyth (Supervisor) & Mark Jayne (Supervisor)


  • Mobilities
  • Friendship
  • Care
  • Alcohol
  • Young People
  • Intergenerationality
  • Urban
  • Qualitative

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