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Home > Eighteen and celebrating: birthday cards and drinking culture.

Loughran, Hilda (2010) Eighteen and celebrating: birthday cards and drinking culture. Journal of Youth Studies, 13, (6), pp. 631-645. DOI:10.1080/13676261003801721.


Aims: The study examined 18th birthday cards referring to alcohol, and considered the significance of possible drinking messages presented in this media.

Methods: A literature review considered greeting cards in society and in particular looked at research on alcohol-related cards. A survey of 30 Irish card stores was conducted. Cards were designated into different categorisations based on their content and an analysis was conducted on those cards which were adjudged to have either ‘explicit’ or ‘low-level’ alcohol content.

Findings: Alcohol-related messages are readily available in 18th birthday cards. As a proportion of the total cards in the study 38% of the cards had alcohol-related content with 26% of the total cards identified as depicting excessive alcohol use.

Conclusions: Eighteenth birthday is a significant milestone in our society. Cards produced to mark this event draw on ambivalent attitudes to alcohol consumption and humour about incidents of excessive drinking. They portray excessive drinking as the acceptable norm for celebrating this event and may contribute to setting up or reinforcing expectations that intoxication is a desirable outcome for a ‘successful celebration’.

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