A Risky Business? Research, Policy, Governmentality and Youth Offending
Media hyperbole about children and crime, along with electoral politics, may well reflect a configuration of personal anxieties, competing social values and public policy options. In this article, I will argue that it is a configuration that represents a crisis of governance far more than a crisis of ‘youth’. However, the research community is far from blameless in the propagation of ‘myths’ about children and crime and has shown itself to be far too willing to become yet another mechanism of governmentality rather than maintaining critical distance from the administrative policies of the state and thereby contributing to a wider public debate on policy. This article is divided into four parts. First, it will briefly review recent trends in youth offending and consider the contradiction that seems to be exposed between offending rates and criminal justice policies. Second, it will explore how research on young people and ‘risk’ has contributed to the growth of a crime prevention industry focused on children, the construction of deviance and early intervention policies. Third, this dominant ‘risk factor’ paradigm is critiqued, along with the discourses of crime that are implicit within it. Finally, an alternative approach to researching children and ‘risk’ is proposed.