Risky Youth or Gang Members? : A contextual critique of the (re)discovery of gangs in Britain

Young, Tara (2016) Risky Youth or Gang Members? : A contextual critique of the (re)discovery of gangs in Britain. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


The aim of this body of work has been to explore the anti-social behaviour and criminality of disaffected young people. In particular, my focus has been on how the perception of young offenders as ‘youth at risk’ needing guidance has metamorphosed into one of ‘gang’ membership requiring a punitive response. My work examines how community agencies and the criminal justice system have responded to this shift and focuses on the consequences for young people. Theoretically, this body of work has been influenced by a constructionist epistemology and incorporates a feminist methodology. The research work upon which this body of work rests consists mainly of qualitative research with marginalised young people, family members and practitioners working with them. My findings, detailed in various publications, have challenged assumptions about anti-social youngsters, the nature of collective offending by young people and the role the family plays in ‘gang-related’ offending. Most notably, they have sought to shape academic and political discourse in Britain by adopting a critical position against the prevailing view that ‘gang-related’ offending is the primary driver for the rise in violent offences. The work has contributed to the conceptualisation of ‘gang’ groups as they exist in contemporary Britain. It has influenced public policy on the gang, particularly in relation to defining the gang, on crime control and it has rerouted the debate about the involvement of girls and young women in street-based groups.

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