Research challenges the link between poverty and ‘Ned’ or ‘Chav’ culture
posted on: Sep 10, 2012
A new study is challenging stereotypes around the youth subculture whose members are often labelled as ‘neds’ or ‘chavs’.
Researchers from the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow interviewed more than 3,000 15-year-olds in and around Glasgow city for the study, published today in the British Sociological Association’s journal Sociology.
Their findings dispute a number of common perceptions about ‘neds’ and young people’s feelings about the label. They found evidence that the labels, often thought to be derogatory, are being reclaimed as a sort of badge of pride by some young people, with 15% of interviewees willingly self-identifying as a ‘ned’ or ‘chav’. More female interviewees claimed identification with the terms than male, with 17.4% of girls and 12.7% of boys reporting they considered themselves part of that group.
Contrary to the stereotype of ‘neds’ or ‘chavs’ being exclusively from deprived backgrounds, the researchers found that around 13% of the young people they interviewed from more affluent or middle-class families unambiguously identified with the label ‘ned’, compared with 22% from less affluent or working class backgrounds.Robert Young of the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, who led the project, said: “When we began the study, we were keen to find out if any young people would positively identify themselves with the term ‘ned’ or ‘chav’, which have been overwhelmingly used as terms of abuse for a particular section of society. We also wanted to pinpoint which aspects of the culture might appeal to them.”
“There is a surprisingly low association between adopting a ‘ned’ identity and experience of deprivation among the young people we spoke to, certainly far less than popular assumptions would suggest. Those who identify as ‘neds’ are not exclusively from disadvantaged areas; instead, it seems that part of the appeal of joining such groups may be to attain a better social standing within their own peer-group and greater peer respect, even for young people from more middle-class backgrounds.”
Regardless of social background or gender, young people who identified as a ‘ned’ regularly participated in a number of 'risky' and somewhat stereotypical behaviours such as antisocial behaviour, heavy drinking, substance use and had little interest in education.
A few Illustrative differences between self-identified neds & non-neds:
Question Non-neds neds
Drank Buckfast tonic wine last week....... 6.4% ……. 33.1%
Drunk, weekly or more often................... 11.2% ……. 43.8%
Take cannabis on weekly basis ……….... 4.0% ……. 19.5%
In trouble with police last month ............. 6.2% ……. 24.7%
Physically attacked or hurt last year........ 8.7% ……. 18.1%
Think school is a ‘waste of time’ ………... 3.2% ……. 11.7%
Highly ‘respected’ by peers at school…....12.0% …….. 27.8%
‘Into’ Hip-hop/Rap music & culture……..... 27.8% ……. 56.6%
The paper, titled “Can Neds be non-delinquent, educated or even middle class?”, is available here.