A mixed method study of alcohol use and abuse: the role of neutralization techniques and social capitalISER Internal Seminars


Neutralization theory (Sykes & Matza, 1957) and social capital theory have been widely used to explain drinking behaviours in western countries. Yet, they have not been assessed in developing countries in Asia. This study aims to assess the usefulness of these two theories in explaining alcohol use and abuse in a developing country, Vietnam.


The study site is Muong Khen, a rural mountainous town in Vietnam, where there are two major ethnic groups, Muong and Kinh. This study employed a mixed method design, consisting of three phases. The first phase (N=9, adult men) aimed to explore possible factors that influence drinking patterns in the town by using qualitative interviews. The second phase (N1=127, adult men and women from a nearby commune, N2=315 adult men and women from the town) aimed to develop a neutralization scale since neutralization seemed to be a possible explaining factor, according to the first phase’s results. The third phase (N=315 adult men and women) statistically tested the importance of neutralization techniques and social capital in explaining alcohol use and abuse in the town.


Higher scores in techniques of neutralization scale, higher scores in social capital (social participation component) positively predict alcohol use and abuse.


Neutralization theory is also useful in predicting alcohol use and abuse in the town, and maybe other context in developing Asia.

Social capital is not protective as proposed by social capital theory. High social capital (social participation component) may lead to higher chance of being an alcohol abuser. This is contributing to arguments within social capital theorists about negative impact of social capital.

Sykes, G. M., & Matza, D. (1957). Techniques of Neutralization: A Theory of Delinquency. American Sociological Review, 22(6), 664-670.

Presented by:

Phong Vu (University of Essex Sociology Department)

Date & time:

October 19, 2011 12:00 pm

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