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Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

The Journal of Nordic Centre for Welfare and Social Issues

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Volume 32, Issue 2 (Apr 2015)


Social work assessment of underage alcohol consumption: Non-specialised social services comparison between Sweden and Italy

Paolo Guidi
  • PhD student Faculty of Health and Society Malmö University
  • Email:
/ Matteo Di Placido
  • Master student Lund University
  • Email:
Published Online: 2015-04-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/nsad-2015-0020


AIM - This research contributes to highlighting social work assessment of family situations with underage alcohol consumption and abuse. The comparative study invites reflection on the main features influencing an initial approach to adolescent problematic alcohol consumption outside specialised addiction services. DESIGN - The study is based on a cross-national comparison. A questionnaire including a vignette story of a young girl (“Nadja”) and her family was submitted to thirty-five social workers employed in public social services in Stockholm, Malmö (Sweden), and Genoa (Italy). The participants were then invited to focus groups to discuss the main features that had emerged in the assessments. RESULTS - Results show significant variations between Italian and Swedish social workers’ assessments. Italian social workers are in general more concerned and interventionist than are their Swedish colleagues. Swedish social workers tend to intervene less, assuming that Nadja’s consumption is “normal” teenage behaviour, while the Italian social workers, less accustomed to considering such behaviour as common, are more worried and prone to intervene immediately, in particular when Nadja is found drunk in the city centre. CONCLUSION - The assessment proposed by public social workers appears to be informed by cultural understandings of alcohol consumption which permeate and reveal predominant tendencies in the two groups of professionals. Moreover, in Italy the social service mandate appears to be fragmented among different service units, whereas Swedish social workers operate within a broad welfare system that allocates specific resources for adolescent alcohol consumers. Further elements influencing the assessment are found in the legislative framework and consequently in the different practices and perspectives of intervention social workers assume in Sweden and Italy.

Keywords : adolescent alcohol consumption; social work assessment; vignette study; Italy; Sweden


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About the article

Received: 2014-03-26

Accepted: 2014-11-07

Published Online: 2015-04-18

Published in Print: 2015-04-01

Citation Information: Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, ISSN (Online) 1458-6126, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/nsad-2015-0020. Export Citation

© by Paolo Guidi. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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