Conceiving risk, bearing responsibility: Ideas about alcohol and offspring in the modern era

Elizabeth Mitchell Armstrong, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), a cluster of birth defects linked to drinking during pregnancy, was discovered in 1973. This dissertation examines the social construction of FAS as a new medical diagnosis, focusing on the role of moral entrepreneurship in the creation of knowledge, risk, and responsibility. The dissertation integrates historical, sociological and demographic analysis; it explores nineteenth century notions of alcohol and heredity as voiced in the temperance and eugenics movements, traces the evolution of the modern diagnosis of FAS through a review of contemporary medical literature and through focused, in-depth interviews with doctors, and evaluates the demography of drinking during pregnancy and the distribution of risk of FAS in a national dataset. The American discourse about alcohol and offspring illuminates the medicalization of social problems, the assumed relationship between physiological and social disorder, and the intertwining of health and morality that characterize our society. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Theory and Methods|Health Sciences, Public Health|Sociology, Public and Social Welfare|Sociology, Social Structure and Development

Recommended Citation

Elizabeth Mitchell Armstrong, "Conceiving risk, bearing responsibility: Ideas about alcohol and offspring in the modern era" (January 1, 1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI9840169.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9840169

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