Negotiating danger, risk and safety

For more information contact Jenny Parkes


Nov 2008 - May 2011

Research Team

Jenny Parkes
Anna Conolly

Negotiating danger, risk and safety: an exploration with young people in an urban neighbourhood


In the current climate of widespread concern about youth crime and violence, this study focused on the perspectives of young people living in an inner-city London neighbourhood with high levels of social deprivation, crime and gang activity. 

Research activities

The study was conducted between November 2008 and May 2011 combining ethnographic research to explore the diversity of perspectives, with intensive participatory research with girls and boys in their early-mid teen years to look in depth at the ways in which they understand and manage risks.  

It aimed to explore how perspectives are formed and negotiated within a network of social relationships, and the tensions and dilemmas experienced by young people in these negotiations. 

Download the Research Summary (pdf)

Summary of Findings

The study found that the ways young people negotiate risk are closely bound up with their developing identities as young men and young women. Living in a 'hotspot' for crime created material risks, and gang violence was a major concern, as well as sexual harassment for girls. Some strategies to avoid danger exposed young people to other forms of risk, including denigration by peers.

For girls, strategies for gaining a valued sense of self within the peer group, including autonomy, glamour and boyfriends, could create conflict with parents. Tough talk was used, particularly by boys, to demonstrate street credentials, and also at times to conceal their own fears.

Through engaging young people in interviewing and data analysis, the research generated dialogue, critical reflection and enabled them to discuss fears and anxieties often concealed in discussions about risk management.


Parkes, J. and Conolly, A. (2013) Dangerous Encounters? Boys' peer dynamics and neighbourhood risk. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 34, 1, 94-106.

Conolly, A. and Parkes, J. (2012) 'You're like a prisoner in your house. She's not allowed to go nowhere':  Autonomy in young people's familial relationships in areas affected by high youth crime. Families, Relationships and Societies 1, 2, 155-172.

Parkes, J. and Conolly, A. (2011) Risky positions? Shifting representations of urban youth in the talk of professionals and young people. Children's Geographies 9, 3-4, 411-423.