Alcohol use and abuse among female high school learners : a qualitative approach.
The increasing levels and more frequent use of alcohol among females especially those in younger age groups has been noted with concern worldwide. However qualitative data on this problem is limited. This study therefore aimed to explore qualitatively factors contributing to female adolescents' alcohol use and abuse, their knowledge regarding risks associated with alcohol use and abuse and to understand the contextual and environmental factors that render female adolescents vulnerable to engage in drinking behaviours. This study was guided by the Prototype / Willingness model. The data was collected using two (2) focus groups and five (5) individual semi-structured interviews with Grade 9 female high school learners. Data analysis was done using thematic analysis. The findings of the study indicated that there are various individual, social as well as contextual factors contributing to alcohol use among female learners. These factors include age onset, low self-esteem, influence of significant others e.g. parents, peers, celebrities, media alcohol adverts especially through Television, easy availability and accessibility of alcohol as well as lack of law enforcement on selling of alcohol to minors. Protective factors emerged from the findings and these include parental monitoring, high self-esteem and good mother-daughter attachment. The study also indicated various positive perceptions why female adolescents use alcohol. These included perceiving alcohol use as fun, “cool” and glamorous, as a coping mechanism as well as a symbol of adult status and being “Western”. Although female adolescents have knowledge of most of the health and social consequences of alcohol most of them believe that they cannot be affected and they still continue to plan to use alcohol. Several recommendations are also presented. These could assist female learners, parents (and other caregivers), community members, policy makers, researchers, program developers especially those interested in adolescent health as well as other stakeholders e.g. South African Police Services (SAPS) and Department of Education etc.