Saturday, August 4, 2012: 1:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBAOral Presentation
Discourses of risk and resilience have come to dominate studies of youth across sociology, psychology and health, vying for attention and prominence as operative logics. On the one hand, resilience theories, derived from psychology, promote a strengths-based view of youth wellbeing, highlighting the ability of young people to become ‘resilient’ through exposure to different life experiences and situations, seemingly building their capacity for empowerment, both individually and collectively. Alternatively, notions of youth ‘risk’ and ‘vulnerability’, suggest a ‘deficit-model’ of conceptualising ‘youth-hood’, insofar as this life stage is constructed as a period of uncertainty and turmoil as youth struggle to grapple with the challenges of life. These challenges are said to include ‘identity crises’ and issues negotiating conflicting experiences within the ‘spaces’ of everyday life, such as the ‘school’ and ‘home’. In this paper, we argue that both the ‘resilience’ and ‘risk’ research frames present limited possibilities to (re)present the complex nature of youth health and wellbeing, primarily by framing youth as either dependent or ‘passive’. In this paper, we begin by charting the development of these theoretical perspectives, highlighting the way in which they have come to occupy positions of considerable influence within current understandings of, and research into, youth health and wellbeing. Then, drawing on a number of case studies from within the Australian context, we propose the notion of ‘resistance’ as a nuanced conceptual framework from which to explore young people’s ability to navigate the journey of ‘youth-hood’. We argue that a ‘resistance’ framework allows for an appreciation of both structure and agency, as an interconnected, bi-directional dynamic, by introducing the ‘political’ as well as the ‘spatial’ within discourses relating to the positioning of youth amidst social change.