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Drinking patterns and beliefs among E.S.N.(M) schoolchildren and their implications for health education


This study aims to provide a detailed account of ESNm school children's knowledge, opinions and experiences of alcohol. The expected outcomes of the study are firstly an assessment of the similarities and differences between slow learners and mainstream children in the development of their drinking, and secondly, guidelines for Alcohol Education for slow learners.
Data was collected from individual interviews with 144 children aged 9-16, who attended a local ESNm school. Informal game-like tasks were used to investigate children's knowledge, opinions and experiences of alcohol. Information about children's social and material backgrounds, and their educational abilities was also collected. Teachers at the school were given a questionnaire which explored the school's Health Education practices and the teachers' opinions about Alcohol Education.
The main findings of the study were as follows. Firstly, it was found that the large majority of slow learners came from traditional working-class families, and that a significant proportion of them lived in disadvantageous material conditions. Some of these disadvantages were identified from the literature to be significant risks for the development of heavy or problematic drinking patterns among adults. Secondly, there were some broad similarities between the drinking patterns of slow learners and those reported in the literature for mainstream children, along with a number of qualitative and quantitative differences. Thirdly, the most common drinking patterns among children were identified as traditional working-class patterns, in which drinking took place outside the home among a family group. There was very little peer group drinking or drunkenness and there were no children who experienced problems from their drinking. Fourthly, various aspects of children's drinking experiences were found to be correlated with aspects of their opinions and knowledge of alcohol. Children's reports of their parents' opinions about their drinking, were found to be the best predictors of children's drinking frequencies.
From these findings, a number of guidelines for Alcohol Education were compiled. These were then used to assess some current teaching materials in their suitability for use with slow learners. None were found to be ideally suited for slow learners, in terms of recommended ages for use and particularly in terms of the drinking experiences portrayed. A middle-class bias was identified, which was considered to be inappropriate for use with slow learners who are largly from working-class backgrounds.

Publication Date Jan 1, 1984

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