Clark Kent drives my bus
: a study of safety and risk in public spaces through the narratives of young people

  • Robin Bhairam

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research explores the complexities of young peoples’ personal understanding and experiences of violence and safety in public spaces. The research itself is constructed through establishing the interrelationships between the theories, practices and policies of safety and young people. Working through these links has facilitated an original framework for understanding by accessing data using young people’s own experiences and views. There is a significant body of published research exploring young people as offenders but a real absence, especially in the UK literature, of young people as potential victims of violent crime. In particular children’s own conceptualisations of risk, safety and victimisation are little understood. This research explores young people’s thoughts on exactly this.
The empirical research draws upon qualitative data derived from semi-structured interviews with 21 young people aged from 10 to 18 years old taken from a socioeconomically mixed area of London. The findings show that irrespective of age, the young people have constructed a very real understanding of safety and risk. Children, even at a young age have developed a myriad of personal safety strategies that involve awareness of teenagers, locations and individuals who they perceive as guardians. However, these strategies emerge without meaningful reference to police or government policy and are largely embedded in a world far away from those in reach of official community safety agents.
This research suggests that there needs to be a move away from portraying young people as ‘folk devils’ who sit at the heart of many ‘moral panics’ towards involving them as significant actors and contributors to social policy making by giving them a voice on the political stage.
Date of AwardSept 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorFrancis Pakes (Supervisor) & Carol Hayden (Supervisor)

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