'Anything's risky'
: A theoretical examination of adolescent risk decisions

  • Sarah Hannaford Simpson

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis examines how young people define and use risk in their everyday lives. A constructivist methodology was adopted and eleven focus group discussions were conducted in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Focus groups were utilised to capture the 'group effect' and how it relates to the construction of risk. The research allowed young people to nominate and define the risks discussed in the research allowing for both positive and negative risks to emerge. Ultimately, the goal of this research was to capture young people's decision making processes whether to participate in risk activities or not. This research challenges traditional notions that risk is a negative construct which is rationally avoided using three risk theories; (1) risk society thesis (espoused by Ulrich Beck), (2) cultural theory (championed by Mary Douglas) and (3) governmentality (developed by Michel Foucault). The analysis utilises a variety of risk behaviours (as defined by the respondents) to construct a more comprehensive understanding of risk. Three analysis chapters are presented which discuss (1) risk, power and regulation, (2) risk, uncertainty and otherness, and (3) risk, subjectivity and positive risk. What emerge are dichotomies within and between the theory and findings which are relevant to the themes of knowledge, control and experience. These dichotomies are mapped against three types of intervention (1) cross community programmes (2) youth sport initiatives and (3) formal education and used to form recommendations to inform policy and practice.
    Date of AwardJul 2014
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorRobert Miller (Supervisor), Patrick McCrystal (Supervisor) & Aisling McLaughlin (Supervisor)

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