Young people and territoriality in British cities
Territoriality among young people has been identified as a source of social exclusion and disadvantage, and as one of the roots of gang behaviour in some previous studies. It has also begun to be recognised by policy-makers working to improve young people’s life chances and to promote safer communities. However, until now, there has been no research that has focused on understanding territoriality in its own right.
This report examines the following:
- What territoriality is, how it is experienced by young people and who is involved.
- The origins of territoriality in disadvantaged places, including the persistence of territorial cultures and young people’s motivations for being involved in territoriality.
- The impacts of territoriality on young people’s lives, including its potential to block access to opportunities, to foment violence and to act as an escalator to more serious forms of crime, including involvement in criminal gangs.
- The range of projects that aim to deter or counteract territorial behaviour.
- The public policy implications of recognising territoriality as
an important social force in disadvantaged places.
The report encourages the significance of territoriality to be considered in the design of policies and programmes relating to the social exclusion of young people, community safety and neighbourhoods.
For the purposes of the study, territoriality is defined as ‘a social system through which control is claimed by one group over a defined geographical area and defended against others’. This report is a first attempt to better understand territoriality among young people.
Territorial behaviour is frequently argued to be fundamental to
human behaviour. However, some studies have suggested that it
places significant constraints on the lives of young people,
especially in disadvantaged areas. Recently, there has been
considerable media and policy attention given to particular aspects
of territorial behaviour – for example, ‘gang’ membership, ethnic
segregation and anti-social behaviour. Territoriality is a kind of
‘superplace attachment’; while there may be benefits of mutual
support, there is also a darker side, which potentially leads to
isolation and violence.
This study aimed to better understand the manifestations of territoriality, its origins and geography, who was affected by it, its impacts on young people and communities, and the appropriateness of current responses.
The research was carried out through a series of case studies based on ‘anti-territorial’ projects in Bradford, Bristol, Glasgow, Peterborough, Sunderland and TowerHamlets, drawing on interviews with key local stakeholders and focus groups with young people, as well as discussions with national policy-makers.
- Territoriality was part of everyday life in the six areas examined. It emerged where young people’s identity was closely associated with their neighbourhoods and they gained respect from representing them.
- Territoriality was a cultural expectation, which was passed
down to young people from older generations and often had deep
- Boys aged 13–17 were most involved in territorial behaviour; girls and younger children less so. Men in their 20s were also embroiled interritoriality, particularly where it was also associated with gangs and criminality.
- Young people often had positive motivations, such as developing their identity and friendships, for becoming involved in territorial behaviour, butterritorial identities were frequently expressed in violent conflict with territorial groups from other areas.
- The negative impacts of territorial behaviour for young people included constrained mobility, problems with access to amenities relating to their location, and the risk of violent assault and criminalisation.
- Such impacts were felt most heavily by boys and young men who had a core involvement in territorial conflict. However, other young people, including those with no active involvement, also experienced problems.
- There was evidence in some of the sites that low-level territorial behaviour could be the foundation of criminal gangs involved in drugs distribution and violent crime.
- The report encourages consideration of the significance of territoriality in the design of policies and programmes relating to the social exclusion of young people, community safety and neighbourhoods.
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
tel. +44 (0)1904 629241
University of Glasgow - Department of Urban Studies
Keith Kintrea tel. +44 (0)141 330 5048
Keith Kintrea, Jon Bannister, Jon Pickering, Maggie Reid and Naofumi Suzuki
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Report | Young people and territoriality in British cities
20 Oct 2008, pdf, 6MB