"Don’t let them see a drink in my hand" : an interpretative phenomenological analysis of British Sikh women's experiences of alcohol

Gill, Ravinder (2015) "Don’t let them see a drink in my hand" : an interpretative phenomenological analysis of British Sikh women's experiences of alcohol. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Despite alcohol consumption being prohibited within the Sikh community for religious reasons, it is well documented that this ruling is regularly transgressed. There is also now a rising body of evidence that suggests that there is an increase in consumption levels within this community (Wilsnack, Vogeltanz, Wilsnack and Harris, 2000; Heim, Hunter, Ross, Bakshi, Davies, Flatley and Meer, 2004; Brar and Moneta, 2009; Pannu, Zaman, Bhala, Zaman, 2009; Motune, 2011). It has been reported that female alcohol consumption has increased within the general population, with the Office of National Statistics (2011) reporting a 7.7% increase in alcohol unit consumption per week for women since 2008. There are also concerns about increased consumption amongst Sikh females and the prevalence of secret drinking behaviour amongst second generation British Sikh females (Bayley and Hurcombe, 2010; Motune, 2011). Increased consumption amongst females remains a cause for concern with the Institute of Alcohol Studies (2013) reporting that female drinking behaviour remains at historically high levels especially amongst young females.

This research study aimed to explore the experiences of British Sikh women with alcohol. In the current research 6 British born Sikh women were interviewed and the interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Semi structured interviews were used to explore the young women’s experiences with alcohol; the methodological approach of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) allowed for a rich and detailed exploration of a taboo subject. Themes emerged relating to the nature of secret drinking behaviour including details of the lengths young women go in order to hide their drinking behaviour from their families. The interviews highlighted the participants’ experiences of being British and fitting in with society whilst maintaining their cultural identity as Sikh women. The interviews also revealed a major element of upholding a public image to wider society as well hiding their drinking behaviour from parents and other family members. The participants engaged in constant renegotiating between what is traditional and what is modern: "who am I?" vs. "who am I supposed to be?"

The findings from this research can contribute to the development of culturally sensitive alcohol assessment measures and development of culturally sensitive alcohol treatment programmes.

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