What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?" Plato, 4th Century BC. Upon reading this quotation it could be assumed that the speaker is reflecting on the youth of today, however Plato spoke these words during 4BC offering an interesting proposal that adults have always viewed young people with negativity. Much of the reading undertaken for the purpose of this dissertation offers analysis of the perceived issue of youth, and perhaps some of the influencing factors which seek to explain why society endures such challenges. Modern day reality television programmes offer an insight into reality but appear to showcase distortions and exaggerated preconceived ideas about the mysteries of youth. The subject of young people and juvenile deviance is explored in limitless volumes, and journals, which offer comprehensive insight into the theoretical narratives and academic perspectives of young people, and their behaviour, including perceived offending behaviour.
Society seemingly keeps a watchful eye on its young people and reports on how they behave but society's watchdog offering this reflection, namely the media, offers coverage of young people which appears to have a negative bias which creates a false reality in the eyes of those who might be susceptible to fear young people, hence the divide between the generations gets wider. By adopting a thematic approach to this critical analysis it is possible to explore academic analysis throughout the changing Governing policies. The concept of the demonising youth (Furedi, 1991) will be examined in the upcoming pages using theoretical and anecdotal offerings through primary research.
A short internet search of the word 'youth' on Google images produces a range of images which demonstrate our prejudices in relation to young people. Snapshots of aggression, youth culture, 'hoodies', 'Chavs', 'Goth', 'Emos', all which seem at odds with people outside the classification youth. Springhall (1983) suggests that it is these images which prejudice the term youth, and that politicians and the media use these to control society, and herd the masses, like sheep, to subscribe to their political ideologies. However, whilst it is a theory which can be understood there are detractors who seek to offer a different perspective. Clarke suggests 'The 'state' of youth acts as a social metaphor for the state of society' (Muncie, 1999) therefore arguing that analysis of the contextualisation of the purpose of demonising youth must be sought if this research is to be valid and credible.
The first task is to examine the concept of youth and childhood, both are social constructs in that relatively recent changes of attitude have introduced the concepts of children. Empey (1982) points out that prior to the industrial revolution and the grip of social conscious of middle class philanthropists, children worked, drank and gambled, as did adults. The rise of Capitalism brought with it a change of attitude and radically change the workplace, from whole families working in factories or in the field, the introduction of the family wage meant that children were removed from the workplace. This claims Dingwall (1984) is where the issues of childhood first emerged because prior to this childhood did not exist.
Cohen (1986) makes great work of the juxtaposition between youths as perpetrators or victims of crime; he calls this 'the site of a singular nexus of contradictions' (p.54). This need to both protect and control young people explain the cyclamate changes to policy which seeks to address issues perceived to be created by young people through Government and the judiciary. The industrial revolution provided the catalyst for change in Britain but the impact was evidenced in post war Britain with changing policies to meet the needs of society, including what appeared to be a welfarist approach in both social policy and the judiciary. This came at a time when society was seeing how popular media showcased modern culture and Britain saw 'teddy boys' as differing from the norm. Prior to that young boys dressed like their fathers, and there appeared to be little distinction in terms of fashion and culture between young people and their adult counterparts. Music, media and fashion appeared to highlight the differences of young people to the rest of society, and perhaps gave way to the idea of 'Folk devils and Moral panics' (Cohen, 1980) first explored by Stanley Cohen. Was Cohen the first to highlight the differences in young people? The answer is no, this dissertation opened with a quote from Plato (4BC). Below is a thematic review of the current academic thinking on youth which seeks to explore the perception of young people.
Youth; Real or social construct?
The primary goal for this assignment was to explore the concept of society demonising youth, but what is youth?. After an exhaustive search it is apparent that the idea of childhood and youth is not clear, many of the boundaries between one stage and the next are blurred. Muncie (1999) offers that the generally accepted timeline for youth is adolescence, defined by age from 13-19 years, but this is the most contentious span of years with many legal restrictions on activity which seemingly offer definitions on age of responsibility without a definitive statement of transition from child to adult . During this period between 13 and 19 years the law makes clear points of transition between what is legal and not legal but without apparent reasoned thinking. Smoking and sex become legal at 16 years, whilst the consumption of alcohol and voting become legal at 18 years, although sex and smoking are both risk behaviours which are comparative with drinking, it highlights a societal ambiguity about adulthood which means that young people may receive mixed messages about behaviour and age. Sex has the potential for risk at a greater level both personally and societally than voting but the law has chosen to allow young people defined as children to make decisions about their own sexual behaviours post 16 years.
James and Prout (1997) argue that youth is not definable through biological terms, ie age, They argue that 'children are agents in, as well as products of social processes' and therefore the age of accountability is not straight forward and potential for criminalising young people is also a sociological by product. Psychology, sociology, criminology has sought to evolve increasingly positive child rearing practices that seek to raise more successful individuals which is further proof that there are no easy ways to run a comparative study when the generational views on childhood have changed. Scraton (1997) highlights the ambiguity around how young people are perceived, and managed in society, 'On the one hand, there is the denial of children as rational, responsible persons able to receive information, participate in frank and open discussions and come to well reasoned and appropriately formed decisions about their interpersonal relationships (family, friends, sexual), about school and about developing sexuality. On the other hand there is the imposition, using the full force of the law, of the highest level of rationality and responsibility on children and young people who seriously offend.' He proposes that this lack of clarity is what presents the challenge to measuring accountability and risk for young people. By not offering a clear term and society and its institutions not being united in agreement about when childhood ceases and the age of adulthood and accountability begins.
Reichler and Emler (1985) weigh in with an argument that suggests the feasibility of lowering the doli incapax, the legal age of accountability, and question whether it is ethical. The impact of early criminalisation is well documented and forms part of the research paradigm within this dissertation weighted by psychological arguments of how pushing boundaries is an intrinsic element of child development. Erikson (1968) and Sorenson (1973) studies and theoretical texts offer the importance of risk taking and boundary pushing if children are to progress and develop through the natural stages of development. Without risk behaviour babies would not learn to walk, toddlers learn to climb, and so on, in ancient times this is how human's survived. In today's society we appear to have lost sight of the need to develop and the intrinsic programming of humans when we identify risk behaviours in young people as criminal rather than nature's way of ensuring they grow.
Having presented the arguments for importance of risk behaviours the debate for accountability took a twist in 1993 when two 10 year old boys abducted, tortured and murdered a 2 year old toddler. The death of Jamie Bulger caused national distress and panic when they identified that the perpetrators were children themselves. During the 90s the UK was in the grip of other perceived moral panics involving young people including substance misuse, knife crime and joyriding, but these were teens, the act of murder by two ten year olds refocused attention on the age of accountability and highlighted to many that the current view of young people may be distorted. The then home secretary, Michael Howard, reacted swiftly to the public and media outcry for action, he used the judiciary to act upon the latest moral panic. Furedi (1997) examined the concepts of good and evil in children, and suggested that the murder trial was not just the criminal process of murder but in fact the loss of innocence and period of anomie in youth justice. (Williams, 2004) led to debates about whether children could be considered to be guilty of murder, a crime which is defined as having intent, or whether they were too young to comprehend the concept of consequences.
The increased fear generated by the media over behaviour needs to be examined in context of who controls the media. The media is widespread but controlled by only a few, for example, Rupert Murdoch owns a newspaper group as well as Sky television and other media which forces the question on who's opinion does the media represent? Recent revelations about phone hacking and the subsequent demise of Rupert Murdoch's flagship, News of the World newspaper, followed by on-going investigations and criminal sentences, seemingly evidence the behaviour and driving purpose of the media. McQuail (1993) highlights the importance of commercial interest in news reporting, arguing that news sells so marketability and not accuracy is the key to media interest. Chibnall (1977) identified the five key elements, the 'Rules of Relevancy' from which the media, acting as gatekeepers, choose which stories to present. It is noteworthy that following the Bulger murder the growing of punitive methods, which were increased under subsequent Government changes, were intended to pacify the public, target the causes of crime and create a feeling of control over the perceived increasing problem of youth (Pitts, 2001).
This research paradigm centres on the viewpoint of society and the questions around whether young people are being demonised and so it would be remiss to ignore control theory. Reiss (1951) sought to explain the connection between an individual's restrain toward personal goals through accepted means which are not at odds with society's laws and morality. Increasingly society has absorbed responsibility for the acculturation and wellbeing of its population. From the first move toward constructing childhood to post war Britain and Bevan's five pillars, and as technology has developed so monitoring and reporting techniques have increased the ability to intervene. From pre-birth individuals are being monitored and managed, and if they are to receive the support from organisations and agencies they must comply with rules and regulations. Rose (1989) argued those who opt out are viewed with suspicion and subject to scrutiny whilst the Government serves to protect its own interests by appearing to serve its constituents, by offering seemingly benevolent systems to observe, coerce, regulate and discipline society. 'The true purpose of the state is to further the interests of its constituent groups. A cadre of human service professionals such as health and care personnel, social workers, psychologists, counsellors and administrators would be out of work if the welfare state was abolished. ' (Stoesz and Midgely, 1991 in Pitts, 2001, p.28).
Rose (1989) suggests 'Childhood is the most intensively governed sector of personal existence' (p.121). He is not alone in his mistrust Muncie (1999) also challenged the Governmentality of societal monitors; 'We do not need to accept the dispersal of discipline theory wholesale to reach the conclusion that the systems have intensified their hold over increasing numbers of people it is undisputable that more areas of young people's lives have been subjected to surveillance monitoring and institutionalised regulation. In the process, more and more elements of youthful behaviour have either become heavily circumcised or subject to criminalisation. Social control has moved from a reactive to a proactive force anticipating disorder and swelling the ranks of the disaffected and marginalised.' (Muncie, 1999). This over involvement in people's lives can also be evidenced in policies which seek to anticipate crime like the stop and search, which targeted young black men who were thought to be guilty of carrying knifes; football hooliganism; the mods and rockers; all documented by Pitts (2201) who argues that whilst the acculturation of individuals into society does not explain their responsibility in criminal activity.
Hirschi (1969) also places attachment to society at the root of individual deviance. In his 'Causes of delinquency' Travis Hirschi identifies the key elements which foster attachment and reduce the likelihood of individual's engaging in criminal activity. He proposes that by fostering attachment, involvement and commitment society can dissuade those who may offend from doing so however this places a huge responsibility on society's institutions like schools and local authorities to promote normative values and reward good behaviour, It is suggested that when this building of attachment fails the individual increases the risk of offending and can feel isolated and outside societal boundaries which oust them further toward offending behaviour.
Lemert (1967) agrees within the body of his labelling theory, that an individual who is subject to being labelled as a result of their behaviour or the judgement of others risks turning a one off event into an on-going and sustained pattern of deviance. The swift changes toward punitive justice taken in 1993 were further stretched by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 which empowered communities and the judiciary to address antisocial behaviour which at the time was perceived to be the start of the rot in communities. it allowed local people and authorities to identify troubled individuals or families who were guilty of anti-social behaviour, who if found guilty were issued with behaviour orders which marked them out as deviant and offered sanctions if they continued their patterns of behaviour. When these were first issued many saw them as a badge of honour and some groups within local communities challenged themselves and their peers to achieve an ASBO, a point not lost by the media who created further folk devils by showcasing various cases across the UK. Merton's Strain theory (1967) identifies a similar theory of attachment, suggesting that if an individual adheres to the normative values and practices of the society in which they live they can achieve success and attain their goals. Merton expands his theory by arguing that as society is the gatekeeper to opportunities for personal development, success and attainment of goals and that a young person must engage with education and other agencies if they are to achieve success. However these opportunities are not equal and access to opportunities is limited in the case of some areas of the UK. Felson (1997) introduced the term 'out of sync youth' draws the theories together when he argues that the need to engage with education at a time of great change for an individual, ie adolescence and puberty, render a young person at odds with their opportunity and foster the potential for mischief.
Managing or targeting crime and behaviour with sanctions?
The judiciary, probation and young people's service are subject to constant change, largely political, and sometimes influenced by the perceived successful programmes operating in other countries or the beliefs of the Government minister of the time. Pitts (2001) points out that Michael Howard was appointed in 1993 and was the home secretary at the time of the Bulger case, he believed that custodial sentences served both to deter criminal behaviour and to punish the offender. Howard said 'Prison works; It ensures that we are protected from murderers, muggers and rapists ' and it makes many who are tempted to commit crime think twice. This may mean many people will go to prison. I do not flinch from that. We shall no longer judge the success of our system by a fall in our prison population.' (Pitts, 2001)
New Labour followed this punitive system with its RESPECT approach which inevitably widened the net as it categorised civil disobedience into crime. Suddenly young people who were 'hanging out' with friends could be classed as nuisances, and dependent on the outcome of the investigation by a local authority officer a young person could be labelled as anti-social and potentially launched on to a career in crime and deviance. With an increase in public attention on perceived youth crime and its causes two Government acts were introduced to target offenders and the causes of criminal behaviour including parents if they were deemed to be remiss in their role. The RESPECT agenda in (1998) and the Criminal Justice Act (2003) sought to widen both the classification of crime and the sanctions. Furedi (2006) continued to argue his point which he explained as meaning that people could be considered criminal through civil processes which had not been subject to the judicial processes involving investigation, evidence and a criminal trial through which evidence would be heard and a defence presented before a verdict was reached and a sanction or acquittal was decided upon.
His ideas were shared by others, and Gardner et al (1998) was quoted in Pitts (2001) as saying 'These are people not formally convicted of any crime yet languishing under house arrest or curfew, not even formally suspected of any crime and yet under repeated investigation and possibly ending up in prison ' for up to five years remember ' for infringing the terms of an ASBOs by playing football in the street, leaving rubbish in their garden, or going out for a pint of milk at night.' The concern is that the wider net will snare more young people, magnifying the belief that youth crime is an increased cause for concern. It could be argued that the more young people who are labelled as criminal the greater the risk of normalising deviant and criminal behaviour, and with increased numbers of people classed as deviant the expectation could be that they band together to further normalise the criminality and raise levels of acceptability amongst sections of the community.
What do the Academics think?
David Matza (1965) highlights the ambivalent boundaries of all individuals and the moral compass that can be affected by upbringing, social group, status and current situation. Matza's theoretical perspective of drift explores the way in which individuals neutralise deviant behaviour in order to protect themselves from harm, which in this case means poor self-image. By rationalising their own behaviour a person can decriminalise the behaviour and thereby remain unaffected by the behaviour. Graham and Bowling (1995), along with other academics acknowledge that most young people try some deviant or criminal behaviour which goes largely undetected during the transient adolescent phase. Most people grow out of this type of behaviour in their early twenties and continue into adult life relatively unscathed by their japes and scrapes. Williams (2004) points out that a young person whose crime is detected and becomes subject to custodial processes increases their risk of recidivism. Cavadino and Dignan (2007) warn that the system of naming and shaming amplifies deviance and far from acting as a deterrent has the potential of risking the future of young people, increasing the chances of reoffending. Matseudi (1992) widens that theory in suggesting that the self-value judgements that an individual perceives are transferred to others by the interactions they hold with others. If a young person has a negative self-opinion their behaviour and reactions with others are affected and whilst many people have been teenagers often they do not adjust their own temperament toward the young person. This amplifies the negativity and potentially reinforces the self-opinion of the young person, the situation is self-replicating.
Academics pursue the ideas of recognising the data and developing a strategy which seeks to manage the transition from childhood to adulthood ensuring that a young person attains their place in the world safely yet having explored their risk drive. Cavadino and Dignan (2007) identify various techniques of addressing deviant behaviour in young people, arguing that the punitive management of behaviour should be that a reasoned person will accept punishment for the crime as long as it is fair and just. A challenge to that is in assuming that every young person is reasoned. This literary review has already questioned whether everyone has fair and equal access to acculturation and therefore it could be argued that the justice process would not be fair, as prior experience and knowledge act as the psyche to influence our belief system. Parenting techniques do not have parity, attitudes toward child rearing cause on-going debate, but it is widely acknowledged that children are influenced by the behaviour and attitude of their parents, however society does not intervene unless the child is at risk of harm. Aside from ideology about whether to assume a punitive or restorative approach the need to accept the field is not even adds to the debate about the credibility of the system. 'It can be assumed that some parents, including those diagnosed antisocial, are less skilled in rearing children then others. Thus in some households, parents maintain few rules, do not exercise discipline when needed, or do not supervise youngsters.' (Heaven, 1994, p211).
The literature makes a strong case for the acculturation of young people if they are to feel connected and therefore less likely to deviate from the norm. The evidence would suggest that crime and deviance cannot be wholly laid at the door of the offender, and that by adopting a welfarist model, with consistent and on-going intervention, society must accept some responsibility for crime and deviance. Goffman (1969) argues that the individual will be affected not only by the influences of their upbringing but also by the punitive measures metered out by the judiciary creating what is a termed a 'spoiled identity', essentially labelling theory.
Analyse of the method
Silverman (2006) warns academic researchers about using social issues for research; he explains the topic is hard to explore on a primary level as social issues are often used by the media and politicians for their own purposes which can obscure and bias any real exploration of the root cause. The decision to investigate the perceived issues with youth and crime was initially generated by personal interest but reading the topic evidences the wealth of research in the field. It would be remiss not to consider the potential for bias on the topic when planning the research, especially with current media focus on the riots held in major UK cities following on from the death of Mark Duggan in 2011. Recent stories have focused on the fact that Mark Duggan, who was shot by police in 2011, was found to have thrown a weapon from the car which seemingly vindicates the police and angered the family. Coverage of this new development on the news has reminded people about the riots of 2011. This is one of several recent stories evidencing young people's involvement in crime which has the potential to bias the research subject. The wide scale violence and looting in major cities across the UK shocked social commentators and provided the media with a wealth of footage on the destructive behaviour of largely young people who were to be perceived as using the death of Mark Duggan as an excuse for crime, seemingly destruction, theft and vandalism. The large scale investigation led to a wealth of prosecutions of young people. The riots which hit major cities in the UK seemingly affected many, and some long standing family businesses were essentially closed down which further demonised the rioters as it struck at the core values being heralded by the Government of the time. All this presented by the media as a clear statement of the wanton behaviour of youth, and evidence of the media bias.
The initial safeguard to this would be to do primary or secondary quantitive research using statistical data which could arguably produce rigorous data on the topic, however due to political changes, and restructures within police, young people's services and probation the statistical data cannot necessarily be compared from year to year. Often organisations adapt the questions or categories of crime in order to appear more effective at tackling issues, so it would not be possible to do a credible comparative study using statistical data. Initial investigation also evidenced that the data for East Lancashire already exists in a format accessible to all, (Statistics.gov.uk, 09/12/2013), so rather than reproduce statistical data the decision is made to pursue qualitative data for which the author has explored qualitative research. Primary qualititave data offers a number of options for data collections all fraught with risk factors. Time is undoubtedly a factor when planning research, the need to collect and analyse the data, before providing a reasoned presentation of the findings means that the collection method for data have to be effective and rigorous. Silverman (2006) advocates the need to utilise direct questioning, either one to one or within a group setting, suggesting that rather than remote analysis of the statistical data, qualitive methods offer and opportunity t o clarify responses and explore key themes in greater depth. Having a captive audience who understand why they are engaging in the research will be prepared to explain their responses and offer greater personal insight to the research.
The need to investigate a potentially emotive topic offers a range of challenges and therefore the data collection method appeared obvious, however it has been necessary to debate with a critical friend as to the reasoning behind the selection of focus groups to ensure that this research would stand against scrutiny from the assessment process. Time has been a major factor whilst this degree has been undertaken over a prolonged time the reason was that balancing full time work, family commitments and study proved too much a challenge, and undoubtedly the academic study would not have been prioritised ahead of income or the needs young children. That does mean that time is of the premium and so the need to assemble a reasonable amount of data for analysis over a short period of time has narrowed the options for the research methodology. Questionnaires have the reputation of being timely, the need to draw up a draft, sample that, before arriving at a final questionnaire elongates the process, and the evidence suggests that returns statistics prove a threat to collecting a substantial sample. Silverman (2006), whilst trying to reflect the methodology of research impartially does offer that questionnaires are rigid forms of data collection, the subject cannot be probed further, nor can the researcher be assured that the research subject interprets the questions accurately. This arguably offers the need to initial and diagnostically assess all research participants, to ensure good levels of literacy of comprehension, but this risks collecting opinion from a skewed element of society, when the research would hope to be open to the views of a cross section of the UK public. Essentially the use of questionnaires has been discounted due to risk factors of time and response rates, as well as the dangers of skewed analysis due to misunderstood question responses.
A combat to this would be reading the questions to the participants in the form of semi structured interviews, which ensures the researcher can confirm understanding both on the part of the participant and the researcher, but also probe further. Time has ruled out this method. Initial attempts to coordinate semi structured interviews demonstrated hat aside from the constraints of the researcher, the potential participants also reported challenges to time. That led to a compromise advocated by Baker (1982) who promotes the benefits of group interaction for research purposes. 'When we talk about the world we live in, we engage in the activity of giving it character. Inevitably, we assign features and phenomena to it and make it out to work in a particular way. When we talk with someone else about the world, we take into account who the other is in relation to ourselves in the world we talk about' Baker explains that the researcher must accept the potential risk of created reality offered by the research participant. In a one to one setting the participant may offer responses they believe will endear them to the researcher or qualify their inclusion by meeting the perceived need s of the research. In a group setting this takes on additional risks in the fact that the actors create reality base on the group dynamic (Stewart, Shamdasani, and Rook 2006). The need to gather data in a relatively short period of time means the use of focus groups offer the seemingly most effective way of gathering data from a number of participants simultaneously. Morgan (1997) suggests that focus groups provide an additional element in that the interaction, experiences and reporting of different members of the focus group may prompt additional research responses which may not have happened through one to one questioning. Morgan adds that the focus group shares power, whereas the one to one interview potentially hands power to the researcher risking the participant feeling that they are not free to respond, but rather must please or provide responses which meet the needs of the researcher.
The purpose of the research Is to investigate the paradigm of the demonization of young people and the need to explore the opinions and experiences of a cross section of the populous creates the argument for the use of focus groups, however the challenge then lies in how to gather together a reasonable cross section of the public without individuals feeling threatened. The research seeks to gather the opinions, experiences and evidence from individuals who whilst not directly invested in the outcome have a wealth of potential contributions which would add to the quality of the data. The question of how to manage the mix, and how to gather a number of unconnected individuals who could provide their own opinions of the research subject without the risk of pre agreed opinions tainting is the immediate challenge. Time still remains a factor, so the offer of using a training provider who gathers a cross section of learners, gender, class, and ages from the academic range entry level 3 to level 5 on a regular basis to feedback their experiences on learning meant that the research groups would fulfil the requirements of the researcher. Morgan (1997) highlights the risk of the media reporting of young people as providing a potential risk to gathering opinion and experiences unchallenged by journalists own bias, however the range of research participants will produce a group who's news sources straddle the politicised press and may offer a range of bias rather than the obvious, which could balance the risk of bias.
Focus Groups? The justification
Crabtree, Yanoshik, Miller and O'Connor (1993) identify that focus groups offer logistical challenge, the need to gather a group of individuals who do not know one another, in one place, for a period of time is fraught with risk of failure. In this case the researcher has been offered an opportunity to piggy back some learner focus groups. A local training provider gathers learners together for a learner forum with the purpose of gaining their feedback. The manager offered to allow the researcher to follow up this forum activity with the group, who were pre-invited to both the forum and an opportunity to support some degree research. The benefit of this is the potential range of subjects. Learners straddle gender, race, age, class and academic scope, offering potentially the optimum dynamic for group research. Fern (1982) did a comparative study on focus groups and whilst the data generated did not offer any significant differences, the time factor offered some significant benefits. A reasoned estimate of the time required to organise interviews amongst the forum participants demonstrated the merit of questioning the assembled group. The added merit of gathering people together who would share their experiences and offer challenges within the assembled group proved to be the most prominent factor in the final decision to choose this as the research vehicle.
Forum members must sign an agreement to operate within the ethos of the training provider, they must respect, value and care about their peers in order to join the forum. The provider creates a safe environment in which learners can feedback on their experiences and are supported to share their challenges. Morgan (1997) stresses the need for the researcher to be passive, and act only to direct the lead topics, and sub questions. The researcher must open by creating an environment in which each participant feels valued in their contributions, and believe that their statements should be credible to them. Janis (1982) cautions that some participants may feel that they need to please the researcher, this need to be liked can skew the data, however it could be argued that the discussion forum means that the individual may be forced to justify their opinions.
The training provider has been keen to participate, not because they have a vested interest in the research but because they would like to offer an enrichment opportunity for their learners. Participants were invited to the forum, and the focus groups, with a clear statement about the voluntary nature of participation. Learners were also given the option to attend either or, meaning that they understood their contribution to both the forum and the study.
The provider also invites an admin apprentice to coordinate the forum, invites, attendance on the day and organising catering as it satisfies elements of her apprenticeship framework, and so provides a valuable learning experience. Participants are asked to sign agreements that they can be recorded and whilst the recording is not used in that format, the words will be transcribed, and the words can be used, although their identities will not be revealed. This apprentice has agreed to transcribe the focus group activity as this will contribute toward her qualification. It will also free up time for the researcher for greater data analysis time. The researcher has been required to provide materials and information so that the admin support can invite potential participants ensuring they have the required level of information. Prior to the invitations being mailed, both electronically and by post, the researcher met with the provider and signed an agreement evidencing ethical behaviour during the research in the centre, including protecting data, confidentiality and ensuring that the provider did not face additional risk by hosting the research. Working with the provider ensures that participants have additional safeguards, and everyone who participate signs ISO documents to confirm rigorous safety, to both their information and their participation. This has eliminated many of the ethical concerns faced by research.
The need for confidentiality, data protection, and avoidance of doing harm, can be a challenge when screening participants. The need to inform participants about the nature of their participations without skewing their comments is fundamental to preserving the integrity of the research. Morgan (1997) highlights the need for impartiality, which includes the behaviour of the researcher, to the need to gather participants without prior history. Shared experiences can mean that two or more participants can evidence higher levels of credibility and perhaps persuade others in the group that their data is more important than theirs, limiting the participation of others who may have critical feedback to share. The discussion with the coordinator of the forums, and therefore of the focus groups offered assurances that the training provider draws individuals from across the range of programmes on offer and so the likelihood of individuals knowing one another is unlikely. With that confirmed, the coordination and undertaking of the focus groups was agreed. Safeguarding paperwork signed, agreements made and the admin apprentice transcribing the tapes means that the actual research was relatively straightforward. Generally speaking the undergraduate undertaking research is confronted with the possibility of having to coordinate research, find and screen potential participants, organise premises that would offer a level of safety, and manage the technology, catering and summation of the research element, which is time consuming, fraught with concerns, and potentially challenging.
The chosen method of data collection was focus groups, which generated over five hours of taped discussion on the topic of the dissertation. Once transcribed, the wealth of text initially proved daunting and suddenly the need for a thematic approach seemed obvious. Boyatzis (1998) explains that, 'a theme is a pattern found in the information which at minimum describes and organises the possible observations and at maximum interprets aspects of the phenomenon.'. Harvey (1990) recommends cropping and reordering the discussion to categorise the main themes and analyse them logically to enhance reader comprehension of the main findings.
The first concern was ensuring that the contributors words are used to apply meaning, a belief echoed by Dingwall (1980) who offered that in order to conduct ethical research, the researcher must demonstrate that each participant has been viewed using 'fair dealing.' Dingwall's later book (1992) highlighted the need to present the data without revealing a bias, and creating an underdog.
Dingwall (1992) extends a tool for assessing the fairness of the analysis when dealing with the data, he recommends 'does it convey as much understanding of its villains as its heroes? Are the privileged treated as having something serious to say or simply dismissed as evil, corrupt or greedy without further enquiry'? In other words the researcher must take care to present an unbiased reflection of the data, ensuring that the reader can engage with the research and connect with the topic. The theme headings offer an overview of the issues, and each has been presented so that the reader can engage and the researcher can methodically explore the key themes of the research data. The focus groups, provided a range of concerns, both in terms of perceived issues of youth but also the dangers that young people face, however the mix of participants was not sterile. Some of the group were parents, some victims, and some had been tarnished by their childhood demeanours so the sessions proved to be highly emotive although each participant treated others with respect. The researcher sought agreements from participants and agreed guidelines prior to the start of each session. The venue, hospitality, and familiar surroundings allowed participants to feel an appropriate level of comfort albeit in an environment of learning.
Amplification of deviance: I can't hear you!
Stuart 'I have started shouting at the TV news, me missus laughs and says I'm like her dad. She says that since we had our little girl I don't go out so often so I've forgotten what it's like out there. When I used to go out there'd be drunken fights and people being nuts but 'cos I was there I didn't think it was scary. She says 'cos we can see CCTV footage of all the naughty stuff on the news, and the newsreader is talking about crime, I think it's getting worse but it isn't as bad as some of the stuff we got up to.'
Jane 'You're younger than me, so I've no chance then, ha ha ha! I do know that I watch some of these programmes and think that young people are depraved. I know it's all for show but there are CCTV footage programmes, and documentaries. There's some shocking stuff on TV, but I do know a lot of it is the extremes. Doesn't stop you thinking when you look outside and see a gang sitting on the wall across though. I remember when that bloke was kicked to death, and that girl, that was gangs wasn't it? That was real!'
Martin 'Yes, but that was years ago and it doesn't happen everyday does it'?
Jane 'How do you know? Only certain crimes hit the news, lots of people go missing everyday, people are killed, the telly doesn't show them all does it? I watch something on morning tv about people going missing, if my loved one went missing I'd hope it would make the news I'd want everyone looking, but they don't, they pick certain ones and let the others go unnoticed, same with crime, not every killing, theft or murder is reported on, even on the local news. Sad how one life seems more important than the other.'
Tanya 'I wonder how my opinion is based on the television and the internet, although I am not sure what I can believe on the internet it's all fake isn't it, at least the television is the truth.'
It is noteworthy to see Tanya's comments about perceived fakery in modern media, yet she trusts the television media reports believing them to be accurate. For years political parties have focused on crime and their intentions to reduce crime in the UK, using the media to convey their own messages, which means that it is at the forefront of people's consciousness, (Furedi, 1997). Changing Government has led to a revolving door of policy, and differing approaches. From prevention and punitive, to reparative and rehabilitation, this schizophrenic management of the issue leads to confusion and discontentment amongst the voters. Cohen, (2002) argues that 'Once behaviour has appeared, its duration and severity are determined by the response of the agencies of social control.' Cohen expresses the point that the intervention of authorities and public sector bodies determine how it is viewed, remedied and dispatched. The increase in media coverage, both of the political rhetoric, the perceived social issues, the fame generation and the 'fly on the wall' television, mean that perception of crime and deviance is skewed and either scandalised or normalised depending on who is delivering the message, and how it is packaged.
Furedi (2006) and Muncie (1999) both make the point about the importance of the media in creating this fear of young people, and argue that it is this fear that leads to the legislation and policy being accepted wholesale by the populous. Pitts (2001) highlighted the ideas that politicians wanted the electorate to believe that society was at risk if it didn't band together against the issues when he wrote, 'At the heart of the new approach is the determination to reassert personal and social responsibility.'
Labelling? Earned or burned?
One of the participants just made it into the group as she was celebrating her 18th birthday, and so became an adult on the day of the second focus group. She shared some insights, some which threw challenges to some of the more mature participants who believed they were opinionated but balanced on the subject of youth, but as Sade spoke it became obvious that some had not considered the other perspective.
Sade 'I can't go anywhere without being viewed with suspicion. My friends and I get followed in shops, and get shouted at and abused in the streets, because we are young.'
Jane 'Abuse? What do you mean'?
Sade ' I mean people say nasty things. I got pushed over in Boots a few months ago by a woman who said I nudged her. I didn't know anything about it till she pushed me, and I lost my footing. When the assistant and the guard came over they immediately listened to what she had to say and I had to wait my turn, and even then she started screaming at me, calling me a liar till her mate stood up for me and said she didn't think it was me. Even then I didn't get an apology, instead the guard and assistant asked her if she was okay, and then asked about me. She attacked a child, and she gets the sympathy, wrong!'
Michelle 'I'm shocked, well maybe not, in my experience girls are worse than boys, braver so maybe she did think it was you and thought she'd better come out swinging. Not saying she was right, in fact I would say the opposite, but I've seen all sorts of kick offs and fights over nonsense. They had CCTV in their store though she was lucky you haven't pursued it.'
Sade 'I thought she had some sort of mental health issue, she was too quick to jump in, but that's not the only time I have see na difference in treatment between adults and young people. I can't go into my local newsagents with my friends we have to go in one by one, when I told him it was my birthday he said whilst I was still at school I had to follow the rules. Young people have grown up with eyes watching them everyday, can't get away with anything, although my mum was real bad un and no one knows anything, seems unfair.'
Sade highlights how she believes young people are being judged and managed based on perceptions of young people and their criminality. Listening to her the group moved forward, it was apparent that some of what she said resonated but only one or two joined in. Becker (1973) argues that in applying unjust judgements to people they may fulfil those labels, like a self-fulfilling prophecy. 'Social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance and by applying those rules to particular people, labelling them as outsiders. From this point of view is not the quality of the act a person commits rather a consequence of the application by others of the rules and sanctions to the offender. The deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label' (Becker, 1973). The increased levels of rules introduced under the Crime and Disorder Act (1998) moved to apply a greater level of social control over what was perceived to be a period of social and moral decline.
Lemert (1967) also focused on labelling, but also the idea of primary and secondary deviance which categorises the way that individuals perceive their deviance which can have an impact on next steps. Primary deviance is applied to behaviour that does not penetrate to the individual psyche, allowing them to dismiss the behaviour, unlike secondary deviance which has a potentially longer term and more harmful effect. The words of Sade, who continued beyond what was shared here highlighted that many are blighted by the actions of the few, and far from labelling theory sitting with one individual, it would appear that generations can be labelled and tarnished.
Jasper 'The police act differently to youngsters now; know my lad gets oined whenever he goes out, can't move but the police are checking up on him. He's a good lad, not like me when I was his age. He's at uni, down the road, studying toward a science degree, yet every weekend he has another tale of harassment. When I was a lad me and my mates used to borrow a customer car from the garage and take the lasses out in it. No one knew, we even got into an accident once but we worked all Sunday to get it fixed so the boss didn't know.
Jasper 'No, not TWOKING, no harm done.'
Grace 'It's car theft, just cos you didn't get caught doesn't mean you didn't take a care with out permission, theft! What would have happened if the police had of caught you? You'd have been a criminal.'
Jasper 'I suppose, never looked at it like that. My mate worked at a garage and we always looked at it as a perk. He took the keys so it wasn't breaking and entering, would they have classed it as theft? The lads used to sometimes use the cars at lunchtime to nip errands, were they stealing? Wow, you're making me think here, is it theft or were we just test driving the repairs? Yeah I suppose if we got caught, the police would have accused us of stealing, maybe. Wow my life might have been very different. Food for thought.'
The idea that the group picked up on this activity and re-contextualised it for Jasper meant that one of the more outspoken members of the group had to pause. He was an advocate of the rough ride young people were getting highlighting the perceived harassment of his son, but within a few moments his perception of his youth time activity, aimed at impressing girls, suddenly was changed. This discussion raised the belief held by many theorists like Muncie, Cohen, Lemart, and Matza amongst others who believe that young people practice some offending behaviour at some point but go on to lead normal productive lives if their deeds go undiscovered or sanctions do not alienate them completely.
The Fear Factor
The most impassioned discussion centred on fear of youth, and this was given added impetus by the fact that the focus groups were being hosted within Preston's most prolific crime postcode. The stories talked of violence, and aggression and a feeling of helplessness and impotence in relation to how to manage the behaviour.
Geraldine 'I have a lovely garden fronted property and until a few years ago we used to sit out in summer, but then they opened a burger place across the way and now it's a hang out for youngsters. They started sitting on my fence, until it broke, then we built a wall so now they have a purpose built seat. At first my husband used to get upset but a few times when he'd come back from walking the dog they would stare at him as if he was the interloper. We tried the police they weren't interested, and if I am honest the behaviour got worse. I have spoken with the council but they want me to play detective, they want me to collect evidence for their investigations. Can you imagine, me taking photos and using recording equipment whilst they watch? Ridiculous!'
Carl 'Why don't you just tell them to move on'?
Geraldine 'Because the first few times they sat on my wall they had a go at some of my neighbours. One night they were all on the wall, drinking, getting rowdy and my neighbour went out, and they spat at her'. Spat in her face. My husband would say something but I remind him about Gary Newlove, well that's the situation I fear, that for the sake of a few hours of noise a night I'll lose my husband.'
The incidences continued and some of the tales of violence were disturbing and it became obvious that some of the recollections were very close to the individuals concerned. Farrington (1994) highlights, this behaviour is in the minority of young people, and therefore the reputation and fear is undeserved in his opinion. Bailey and Williams (2001) raise the issue of Government credibility in this issue, by highlighting the use of the fear factor of youth crime to garner favour, by using strong rhetoric to promise improvements and tougher behaviour, or activity to prevent crime. Child development experts do not share opinions on theoretical ideologies on optimum development but they would agree that a consistent message is what is needed. This switching of approach by the Government means that young people get caught up in a system of mixed messages.
Youth Offending or pushing boundaries?
Piaget (1958) was a leading child development theorist identified the need for children to push boundaries and take risks if they were to develop. Piaget specifically identified adolescence as a time when young people are making that final push to adulthood and responsibility, and sometimes friends become the dominant social influencers, rather than parents. Within the group the discussion fell on concepts of peer pressure, and gangs which provide a level of social status and therefore sometimes override a young person's knowledge of right and wrong.
Marilyn 'My dad would have gone mad if he'd have known I was sneaking around with a lad from Manchester. Me dad thought they were all gangsters. When he did meet Ken I never said where he came from and when he started asking questions I changed the subject. It wasn't till after we were married that I let my dad find out, and by then it was too late.'
Thom 'Manchester? Was he a doorman'?
Marilyn 'ha ha ha, no, it was the 60s, me dad thought all the lads that came from Manchester were gangsters cos they all wore suits. When I first saw Ken he looked so grown up and sophisticated. He had a smart suit and shiny winkle pickers on, his hair was slick and he knew how to talk to girls. I grew up in Darwen, lads mumbled to girls. Ken was different, I wanted to be on his arm, he could have been a gangster at that time, wouldn't have stopped me.
Sade 'I dated a lad before he went into prison, he wasn't really a criminal, and he was so charming. He was good looking and covered in tats but he got caught with some speed, too many times, so they sent him down. I thought about carrying on seeing him, you know wait for him, but my nan went mad. She said I'd be throwing my life away cos what job was he going to get so what is the point me getting a nice career if he would bring me down all the time. She pointed out that I'd probably need to let my bosses know, or live in fear they'd find out. Care homes and hospitals don't like ex-cons do they? He wouldn't be able to pick me up or come visit, plus can you imagine if they found out cos I hadn't told them, would I get sacked'?
A discussion broke out following Sade's comments about how the participants felt about personal drug use and whether this was criminal. Individuals talked about what they knew, and then one of the group discussed alcohol and crime linked to drunkenness. Again this led us back to young people experimenting, pushing boundaries, testing out their own invincibility, and the moment the discussion got back to this idea about young people pushing boundaries the ideas of criminality disappeared.
Jasper 'I used to go out with the lads when I was 15, smoked too. Didn't try drugs but I think that's cos I didn't have access to them. My circle were happy drinking and smoking, me dad knew, me mum didn't but she wouldn't have cared cos they did too. My lad used to have a drink on holiday with us but didn't really start drinking till he started uni. I am not sure he would bother if he wasn't at uni, I think there is a big drinking culture there, but he likes driving so zero tolerance. He and mates like to go over to leeds, or Huddersfield so I think he is the designated driver, so no drinking, not like me I grew up at a time when people went to the pub all night and then drove home. The rules have changed haven't they'?
Jane 'For the better!'
Jasper 'Yes I agree, but you couldn't get in trouble for it could you? My lad's rules are different to mine, that's all I'm saying. I have enjoyed watching him get older, each stage has been great, a proud moment. He walked, talked, went to school, started seeing girls, went to college, uni, and now he's an adult. He got there, but he's not always been perfect. I say that, he's a lad isn't he'?
Sade 'Is it different for girls'?
Jasper 'God no, I'm not going down that path. My point was that he was young.'
Erikson (1950) writes about identity, and suggests that individual identity does not happen, but rather, it is a lifetime of experiences starting with the first elements of acculturalisation, and socialisation. Children's development is encouraged by family, and as they develop, physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually everyone they come into contact with has a part to play. It could be suggested that young people, with their desire to try out new and innovative trends, offer a very real view of change. Age is a social division, Age UK promote 'Loving later life' because of the perceived bad press associated with the elderly, however the group presented their view of age bias in their own experiences, as a young person and a victim of bad behaviour.
The group argued the need for social cohesion and identified the role adults play in ensuring children and young people understand right and wrong, as well as conforming to society. The group debated how the job market was very different to their own teen years, one participant suggesting that many of the factories had closed offering no alternatives for young people who want to move straight from school into paid employment because school had not been for them. Participants doubted whether education, and training, could match the experiences of apprenticeships, suggesting that society had become so anaesthetised that young people were being treated like precious cargo that shouldn't face reality.
Dave 'I started in an engineering workshop, with men and some really old men, ha ha ha! One guy must have been 90, but his name was Young Joe, ha ha ha! I got bollocked every day, and they took the mick, but once they realised they had to teach me they started showing me the work and boy that's when I learned respect. They absolutely knew what they were doing, and took it so seriously. I got blasted when it was wrong but that was because they took pride in the finished task. Where's that now? I got a plumber in the other day, the young lad spent his time texting meanwhile I got involved in the repair cos the guy up the ladder needed stuff passing but his apprentice didn't even notice.'
Dave makes a point that the men in his engineering workshop took his training seriously, and offers how he valued the time they took. He comments on the state of modern, working youth but figures suggest that youth unemployment is an issue for young people. The Government, have moved to address this by the policy raising of the participation age and the policy which will mean that young people stay in education or work with training till they are 18 will reduce unemployment figures and legally engage young people in education or training till they reach 18 and become an adult. This will impact on the economic structure of Britain with an aging population and less young people entering the taxation system it will be interesting to see how this policy rolls out in years to come. Our elderly already feel marginalised and alienated due to their perceived lack of economic contribution will this entrench the idea of young people as second class citizens. Thomas and Hocking (2003) argue the idea that young people are already suffer the greatest inequalities, may be exacerbated by the perceived lack of contribution.
Preliminary reading of this subject at the start of this dissertation evidenced the conflict and range of arguments that this subject evokes, which were not dissipated by the data. Silverman (1995) cautions the researcher on engaging in such emotive social research which attracts a wealth of attention from a variety of sources including the media, academics and a series of Governments. The topic matter evokes passion in all who discuss it, and whatever the level they choose to engage. The research participants were impassioned about the fear they experienced, both as a person who felt vulnerable to youth crime, and those who felt maligned as a result of the perceived issues. The data suggested a number of causal factors, and participants offered experiences and what they felt were resolutions. They were honest in what they believed to be the impact of society on young people, and the changes that had damned them. The evidence gained through secondary research, and the data didn't stack up to suggest that they were accurate in their reflections. Participants were frank about the level of impact the media played in influencing ideas and agreed that young people may go out and about armed for what they will experience as a result of the negative stereotype. Furedi (2006) advocates for young people believing that what they see and hear through media will challenge a young person's self-image and may impact on their interactions with others and so the imagery is amplified negatively. Mead (1934) based his theory of Interactionalism on the way individuals are perceived which impacts on the way others interact with them.
Bailey and Williams (2001) make the case that politicians gain political fodder based on the rhetoric about their answers to the youth problems. In some elections, including the recent Government change, where all parties offered to target young people with strategies to ease youth unemployment, crime and behaviours. No party won outright but we now have a coalition which meters out watered down policies, as each plays chess with the issues that really matter to them. Most individuals do not take the time to scrutinise the rhetoric, it is likely that they may see different figures, but to research and challenge people in positions of power, elected power, is outside our social conditioning therefore those who do challenge Government and media stories are deemed as deviant and outsiders (Cohen, 1972). This in itself leads people to become suspicious of a person who chooses to act outside of societal norms, and challenge the established societal guardians.
Increased media access means increased sexualisation of young people and role models increasingly are challenged by the scrutiny of their own role, in the media. Several high profile celebrities have struggled with the transition from child star to adult star, with frightening consequences, this exacerbated by the place they have held in the eyes of our young children. With such pressure and scrutiny young people may too struggle to manage their feelings without turning to chemical influencers. Drugs were hardly mentioned in this research, interestingly the participants in the group either had no or minimal experiences of substances outside alcohol, or may not have wished to share in the public forum; however the media highlight that drug culture is akin to youth culture (Furedi, 2006) but it appears to have slipped off the radar for our participants so perhaps it is not at the forefront of recent media focus.
Politicians use key elements of social fear to attain trust and foster the belief that they can resolve issues and remove fear. The change in Government and ideologies has led to inconsistencies, and assessing policy impact is impossible, as the measures change from policy change to policy change. Governments and agents of social control amend their statistical data gathering to reflect new policies or represent themselves as more successful than their predecessors. The reality is that each generation romanticises about their own experiences because it is a challenge to fully understand how they were perceived as young people. Their own behaviour was reported as challenging societal expectations and norms but they would have believed that the generations before them were in the wrong. The participants in the focus groups evidenced their belief in how their childhood was better than the next. Modern proponents of children's rights highlight the inequalities inflicted on young people, Batmanghelidjh (2006) argues that a new generation offers promise to the world, but only if society values and encourages young people to flourish.
Upon surface review the enduring problem with youth would at first glance appear to highlight increasing challenges around managing youth behaviours. Some of the participants evidenced a level of fear around young people, although the data offers an opposing view, in that children are more likely to be the victims of crime. However with the Government and the media using this fear for their own purpose, whether to induce trust or to gain favour by seeming to tackle fear, which affirms the belief that young people are not to be trusted. This would appear to victimise young people and raise concerns about agents of social control and influence acting to demonise young people for their own purpose.
The Governments answer is to increase legislation, criminalising young people further, or increase public sector scrutiny, by raising the participation age, keeping young people in education or placing responsibility for training on the employer. Again it would appear that the judiciary, education, and the world of work seek to manage young people without exploring the needs of young people. The risk is that without the feeling that they are valued and forming part of the developments aimed at them that they will rebel, and further alienate themselves, if only because the world that they are being expected to grow up in to seemingly is becoming more authoritative rather than nurturing and valuing the adults of the future.
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