An exploration of women's experiences in Alcoholics Anonymous

Carolyn A Bradley, Fordham University


This qualitative, exploratory study examined how women who participate in Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), a self help alcoholism recovery program, understand alcoholism and the Program's principles and practices and, how through this understanding, achieve sobriety. A.A. involvement, long considered a staple in the treatment of alcoholism, has recently come under question especially for women (Applegate, Bradley, Rhodes & Saulnier, 2001; Flores, 1997; Kasl, 1992). The feminist critique (Berenson, 1991; Blume, 1997; Covington, 1994; Flores, 1997; Kasl, 1992) of the appropriateness of A.A. for women was examined using focus groups. It addressed three questions: (1) How do women in A.A. view the role of alcoholism in their lives? (2) What principles and practices of A.A. do women find helpful in achieving sobriety? (3) How do women using A.A. adapt the Program to serve their needs? Feminist standpoint theory (Bepko, 1989; Berenson, 1991; Covington, 1'994; Kasl, 1992) and spirituality (Carroll, 1997; Cohen, 2002; Paloutzian, 1996; Rambo, 1995; Spalding & Metz, 1997) provided theoretical frames with feminist ethnography as methodology. Focus groups of women selected from women's discussion meetings generated data regarding the participants' views of alcoholism, the principles and practices of A.A., and any adaptations made by the women in using the Program. Analysis relied on ethnographic methods of coding, pattern and theme discovery, and triangulation of data (Fetterman, 1998; LeCompte & Schensul, 1999) and generated information regarding the following major themes: women and alcoholism, spirituality/spiritual fellowship, The Steps, change and barriers to A.A./woman friendly adaptations.

Subject Area

Social work|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Bradley, Carolyn A, "An exploration of women's experiences in Alcoholics Anonymous" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3164134.