Social Exclusion, Youth Transitions and Criminal Careers: Five Critical Reflections on ‘Risk’

Robert MacDonald

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter draws upon recent youth research in some of Britain’s poorest neighbourhoods (in Teesside, north-east England). It stresses the importance of a qualitative, biographical and long-term perspective in attempting to understand drug-using and criminal careers (and wider youth transitions) and points to some difficulties in applying – straightforwardly – influential models of risk assessment and prediction to individual biographies. In a context of deep, collective disadvantage, most research participants shared many of the risk factors associated with social exclusion in early adulthood. Yet the majority did not pursue fullblown criminal or drug-using careers and the research struggled to identify background factors that seemed to play a causal role in separating out more ‘delinquent’ transitions from more ‘conventional’ ones. Youth biographies were marked by flux; they did not roll on deterministically to foregone conclusions. Unpredictable ‘critical moments’ turned transitions in unpredictable directions; sometimes towards crime, sometimes away. This chapter concludes that there is danger in criminal career research – as in studies of youth transition – in prioritising individual-level explanations at the expense of an assessment of the ‘risks’ presented by socio-spatial and historical context.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPathways and Crime Prevention
Subtitle of host publicationTheory, Policy and Practice
EditorsAlan France, Ross Homel
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781134019397
ISBN (Print)9781843926481
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes


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