1. What do you understand by ‘the social construction of childhood and youth’?
A ‘social construct’ is a concept whose specific qualities aren’t fixed, but dependent on a society’s norms, expectations, and requirements. To help think about this in the context of childhood and youth, try working through the following questions. What are seen as the characteristics of childhood and youth in terms of the person’s mental and emotional development? What expectations and standards does society have regarding how children and youth should be treated by, for example, parents/carers, teachers, people in positions of authority, and adults in general? Do societal characterisations, expectations and standards change, depending on time and place? If so, what factors contribute to this (culture, religion, historical events, changes in societal values, advances in scientific knowledge)?
2. Can you name and outline three key ways in which youth offending tends to be explained?
The key ways in which youth offending tends to be explained include individualised explanations that are inclusive of developmental and agentic explanations (see section 9.3), and contextual explanations, including cultural and socio-structural factors (see section 9.4).
3. What contextual factors can influence youth offending?
Contextual factors include social structures (e.g. class, gender, ethnicity, and religion), cultural factors (see subcultures), labelling of young people, lack of a sense of community and belonging, and economic deprivation. Two examples of specific contextual factors that may influence offending are involvement in gangs and radicalisation in terms of religious and political extremism.
4. What is the relationship between developmental theories of offending and risk management responses to offending by children and young people?
The first thing to consider is what developmental theories focus on; what do they see as concerning factors that can increase a young person’s risk of getting involved in offending? Next look at the Risk Factor Prevention Paradigm (RFPP), which currently dominates our youth justice model. Does the RFPP have any similarities to the focus of developmental theories?
5. In what ways are the diversion and positive youth justice approaches considered progressive models of youth justice?
The key to answering the first part of this question lies in the word diversion and its impact. What may be the impact on young people when we find ways of diverting them from the formal criminal justice process? Think here of impact with reference to the young person’s treatment by authorities, their ability to engage actively with interventions that reflect their stage of emotional and mental development, their self-image and how others view them. A broader model of positive youth justice is Children First, Offenders Second, which emphasises diversion, but also puts forward a broader set of progressive principles for delivering youth justice, which are set out in the ‘Positive youth justice’ section of this chapter.