Locked out, locked in: Young people, adulthood and desistance from crime
Embargo end date06/07/2018
Nugent Brown, Briege
This thesis presents findings from a longitudinal study of young people living in poverty providing a unique insight into their lives. The research set out to explore three themes, namely how young people end contact successfully (or not) from support, their experiences of the ‘transition to adulthood’ and also what triggered, helped and hindered those who were trying to desist from offending. It was revealed that a small number never left Includem’s Transitional Support, a unique service set up in Scotland providing emotional and practical help for vulnerable young people in this age group. For those who did leave, many had limited to no other support in their lives and were reluctant to ask for help again even when they were in real need. They were all acutely aware of their precarious situation. ‘Adulthood’ denoted certainty for them and was not viewed as a feasible destination. Members of the group dealt with this differently. Almost all retained hope of achieving their goals and in doing so suffered a form of ‘cruel optimism’, conversely, a smaller number scaled back on their aspirations, sometimes even to the extent of focusing on their immediate day to day survival. Over the course of the study most participants became more hopeless, isolated and withdrawn. Although they still wanted to achieve their original ambitions of having a job, own place and being settled this appeared less likely over time. A key finding from this study is that those who managed least had accepted the idea that independence was about ‘going it alone’ and proving oneself by oneself, but on the other hand, those who coped better viewed independence as being interdependence and welcomed help from others. It emerged that those who had offended had done so to achieve a sense of belonging, rejected by home and education. By desisting they moved from having some element of status and respect to then living a legitimate but often impoverished existence overshadowed by their past. This study opens up a series of questions about the pains of desistance and the pains of poverty. It is suggested that considering desistance and adulthood in terms of citizenship would emphasise the individual’s and societies interdependence so that rights, responsibilities and potential are recognised. At present, I argue that there is a mutual dismissal. Society dismisses impoverished youth and they in turn do not see that society holds anything for them. I call for renewed hope so that inaction and continued poverty and inequality are not rendered inevitable, and for criminologists to also embrace the idea of interdependence so that this issue is dealt with beyond the parameters of this field.