Intolerance of young people’s anti-social behavior does not mean intolerance of young people.
posted on: Oct 22, 2012
A recent study has explored the claim made by a United Nations special committee that there is a ‘general climate of intolerance and negative public attitudes’ towards young people in the UK linked to concerns about antisocial behaviour (ASB).
The study involved a series of focus groups made up of local adult residents from disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Glasgow, UK. It found some evidence of negative attitudes, in the form of generalised negative stereotyping of young people, but not of a ‘general climate of intolerance’. On the whole, the discussions tended to emphasise
the heterogeneity of young people and their behaviours, suggesting that many local young people were not perceived to be perpetrators of ASB.
The findings indicate that although adult residents of disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods perceive young people’s ASB to be a serious issue, they assume that such behaviours occur in the context of poor environments, poor parenting and poor adult behaviour.
The paper follows a companion study (set in some of the same neighbourhoods) exploring young people’s own perceptions of antisocial behaviour and neighbourhood safety. This study found that young people often reported being in a ‘no-win’ situation regarding their association with ASB. The young people reported that both participation in ASB, and attempts to avoid such involvement, each led to negative consequences. Participation could entail violence and spatial restrictions linked to territoriality, but avoidance could lead to young people being criticised or picked by their peer group and still subject to suspicion from adults.
The findings from both studies suggest an urgent need to improve opportunities and intergenerational cohesion in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, but they also suggest that the problems of ASB cannot simply be reduced to an accusation that adults are generally intolerant of young people.