Young people and anti-social behaviour

Authored by: Alan France

Routledge Handbook of Youth and Young Adulthood

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138804357
eBook ISBN: 9781315753058
Adobe ISBN: 9781317619895


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The language of anti-social behaviour has strong relationships to developments in the United Kingdom although its theoretical and empirical roots are from the United States of America (Millie et al. 2005). Within other western and developed nations the concept of anti-social behaviour is not a common part of academic or political language. For example, we do not see it discussed in public or policy debates in any substantial manner in the European Union, Australia or even the USA. This being said concerns about behaviour, which is now being seen in the UK context as anti-social, such as, ‘incivilities’ and ‘minor’ forms of misbehaviour within community settings, has a long history in US criminology and has recently infiltrated policy developments in some European nations (Burney 2005). The policy concept of anti-social behaviour though, is fundamentally a British phenomenon and a concept used to explain and define certain types of behaviour as criminal or deviant. There is also much uncertainty about what it means and how it can be defined (and measured) and much discussion over how anti-social behaviour is constructed around ‘commonsense’ understandings. For example, the UK government has continually claimed that we all understand what it is, even though a definition is hard to find. It tends therefore to be assumed that there is a consensus over its meaning, while in reality no such agreement exists (Millie et al. 2005). It is also worth acknowledging that anti-social behaviour is not necessarily defined as just a ‘youthful activity’. In fact, its history is linked more to criminological debates on neighbourhood decline in the USA. This tends to see youth criminal behaviour as only one of many indicators of social decline. But in the UK context anti-social behaviour has, over the past ten years, been more synonymous with problematic youthful activity in local neighbourhoods. It has also been used by both the media and government as a way of focusing attention on young people’s relationships, not only with their communities but also as a symbol of a decline in ‘respect’ and an indicator of their lack of interest in making a positive contribution to society (France 2007).

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