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Youth ‘at-risk’ and ‘resilient’ to crime: Sharing the perspectives of young women who engage in crime in Aotearoa

Abstract
The perspective of young people, and especially young women who engage in crime has been under-represented in risk and resilience research and policy interventions in New Zealand and in other developed nations. This limits understandings of why young people might engage in crime as well as the effectiveness of interventions that aim to reduce youth crime. In response, this thesis presents insights on youth crime, risk and resilience gained from interviews with eight young women who have engaged in crime between the ages of 15 and 20 years old and lived in Auckland, New Zealand. This thesis sought to examine participants’ understandings of their pathways into and out of crime, the terms ‘at-risk’ and ‘resilient’ as well as what these young women desire for their futures. An analysis of the interviews reveal how the experiences and perspectives of young women who engage in crime contextualises and extends the dominant, individually-focussed view of risk and resilience. This view tends to locate the cause of crime within the individual and their immediate context. Participants’ stories add nuance and deepen the understanding of how ‘risk’ and ‘protective’ factors influence young women to engage in crime. Their stories support the incorporation of an ecologically-focussed view of risk and resilience into mainstream literature and policy. Participants realise that external factors including social, structural and political factors shape their environments, constrain their personal agency and influence their involvement in crime. There is an obvious awareness of how the high-risk neighbourhoods normalise pathways that eventuate in crime and negatively influence thoughts and behaviours. Some participants discussed the importance of replacing their role of ‘offender’ with socially accepted roles including mother, romantic partner, employee or church-goer in their efforts to reduce their involvement in crime. While participants were aware of being associated with the term ‘at-risk’, none of the participants had heard of the term ‘resilient’. Participants’ understanding of these terms reflect notions of individual responsibility indicating that risk and resilience terminology may stigmatise and marginalise youth offenders. Participants revealed that they have socially desirable goals such as access to wealth and resources and having a family. Yet their circumstances (e.g. poverty and lack of formal education) limit their ability to achieve these goals through socially acceptable methods. Listening to young women and utilising theories of structuration and habitus, may encourage future researchers to balance their approach by refraining from an exclusive focus on risk and protective factors tied to the individual and including environmentally-located factors in risk and resilience literature. The key recommendation is to develop existing risk and resilience literature and advance policy by addressing structural issues such as poverty and unemployment alongside factors linked to the individual such as anti-social behaviour and family criminality.
Type
Thesis
Type of thesis
Series
Citation
Moselen (nee Clarkson), E. F. (2014). Youth ‘at-risk’ and ‘resilient’ to crime: Sharing the perspectives of young women who engage in crime in Aotearoa (Thesis, Master of Applied Psychology (MAppPsy)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8801
Date
2014
Publisher
University of Waikato
Rights
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