The Context of Risk Decisions: Does Social Capital Make a Difference?

Thilo Boeck, Jennie Fleming, Hazel Kemshall


The traditional approach to risk in youth research has focused on the identification and weighting of risk factors in what has been called the "risk prevention paradigm". This paradigm has been critiqued, not least for its lack of engagement with contextual and structural issues. This article draws on recent empirical work which attempts to foreground issues of context and structure in its investigation of young people and risk, and in particular the role of social capital in risk decisions. We argue that two major paradigms underpin the debate about youth and risk: the "Prudential Human" who will make rational and normatively correct choices—balancing benefits against costs, and the "Gambling Human" who positively embraces risk-taking even "against the odds", and whose risk choices are often characterised as irrational and imprudent (ADAMS 1995; KEMSHALL 2003). Drawing on empirical work from "Young People, Social Capital and the Negotiation of Risk" carried out under the "Pathways into and out of Crime for Young People" network funded by the ESRC we argue that social capital plays a central role in the ability of young people to "navigate" risk decisions. We conclude by considering the types of social capital that provide the resources for young people to cope, manage and make informed choices about risk, and to act upon them, literally what it takes to be a risk navigator.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0601170


social capital; risk; navigation; young people

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Copyright (c) 2006 Thilo Boeck, Jennie Fleming, Hazel Kemshall

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