Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in HEALTH COMMUNICATION, 13(4), 427–447. Copyright © 2001, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Used by permission.


College drinking has traditionally been studied from a public health perspective that attempts to quantify behavior as a means toward description, explanation, and intervention. This article offers a critical and cultural approach to understanding the meanings and functions of high-risk drinking and the ways in which those meanings are reproduced within the culture. Data were collected via an ethnographic study of fraternity members at a large midwestern university to explore the communication of excessive drinking norms. Viewed from various narrative and structural theories, the study examines collected drinking stories as a source for analyzing the construction of meanings surrounding drunkenness for the fraternity subculture. Five themes emerged as functions of drunkenness for the culture. Implications for prevention are discussed.

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