118 alcoholism and alcohol abuse

adapted to the behavior of the alcoholic hus
band and father, focusing upon the changes in
role expectations and role relationships that
often kept families intact despite dramatically
deviant behavior on the part of this adult male
(Steinglass et al. 1987). Stemming from these
studies has been the concept of enabling
behaviors that has widely diffused into both
technical and popular literatures.
Research by sociologists has also focused
upon employed persons with drinking pro
blems, approaching this issue from two distinct
perspectives. One framework looks at the stres
sors built into jobs and organizations, and the
manner in which heavy drinking is a response
to these conditions, used in a manner that can
be aptly called self medication (Martin et al.
1992). A second approach parallels the research
literature on the family, looking at the group
dynamics and power relationships in work set
tings that tend to normalize deviant drinking
behaviors and reduce the likelihood of identifi
cation (Roman & Blum 2003). Several recent
studies have examined the roles of labor unions
in these dynamics. This research has helped
formulate strategies for peer intervention that
build upon workers relationships that might
otherwise impede the process of providing
assistance to the problem drinker.
It is clear that control is a major theme in
discussing the use of alcohol in human society.
Thus, in multiple nations on multiple occa
sions, the prohibition of the manufacture and
use of alcohol has been seen as the sweeping
solution for the problems that drinking brings
to different social institutions. The American
experience of the emergence of a major tem
perance movement that ultimately led to
national Prohibition has been well documented
(Clark 1976). Reasons for the repeal of Prohi
bition are more complex than is implied by
assertions that the social experiment was a
failure. One of the dynamics that emerged
along with Prohibitions repeal was the diffu
sion of the idea that certain drinkers were
unable to control their drinking because they
suffered from the disease of alcoholism
( Jellinek 1960). Such a concept effectively
undermined the need for Prohibition for the
entire population and instead called for iden
tification of treatment of the small minority
which was unable to drink normally.
Sociology has a long tradition of critical per
spectives on the dominant definitions of alco
hol related problems and accompanying social
policies (Roman 1988). There is considerable
skepticism about the disease model of alcohol
dependence, largely because the successful
treatments of such dependence are primarily
centered on the personal will in the achieve
ment of abstinence rather than through exter
nal medical interventions. Related studies have
examined the dynamics of the processes sur
rounding alcohol dependence and recovery
through intense conceptual and empirical
examination of Alcoholics Anonymous (Denzin
Given its potentially harmful effects, its
widespread use, and the legality of its use for
most adults, it is clear that there is consider
able ambivalence around the notions of appro
priate and inappropriate uses of alcohol in
most of the world today. The possibility of
prohibition has been largely abandoned in
most locations and thus appropriate controls
become the central issue. Most current socio
logical research is oriented toward these
practical considerations, focused on the design
and evaluation of prevention and treatment
strategies, with extensive recent attention to
curbing the binge drinking of college stu
dents, drinking and driving, and methods
to reduce or eliminate youthful alcohol con
sumption often associated with crime and

SEE ALSO: Addiction and Dependency;
Alcohol and Crime; Chronic Illness and Dis
ability; Deviance, Medicalization of; Deviance,
Theories of; Deviant Careers; Drugs, Drug
Abuse, and Drug Policy; Health Risk Beha
vior; Labeling Theory; Marginalization, Out
siders; Moral Entrepreneur; Sick Role; Social
Epidemiology; Stigma


Bacon, S. D. (1943) Sociology and the Problems of
Alcohol: Foundations for a Sociologic Study of
Drinking Behavior. Quarterly Journal of Studies
on Alcohol 4: 402 45.