There's alcohol in my soap: portrayal and effects of alcohol use in a popular television series

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Abstract

Two studies are reported addressing the media influences on adolescents’ alcohol-related attitudes and behaviours. A content analysis was conducted to investigate the prevalence of alcohol portrayal in a Dutch soap series. The coding scheme covered the alcohol consumption per soap character, drinking situations and drinking times. Inter-coder reliability was satisfactory. The results showed that alcohol portrayal was prominent and that many instances of alcohol use reflected undesirable behaviours. To assess the influence of such alcohol cues on adolescents, a 2 × 2 experiment was conducted focusing on the separate and combined effects of alcohol portrayal in the soap series and surrounding alcohol commercials. Whereas the alcohol commercials had the expected effects on adolescents’ attitudes, the alcohol-related soap content only appeared to have unexpected effects. Adolescents who were exposed to the alcohol portrayal in the soap series had a less positive attitude towards alcohol and lower drinking intentions. Implications of these findings for health policy and future research are discussed.

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