Negotiating Normalcy Self-Narratives of Troubled Young People

Friday, July 18, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: F205
Oral Presentation
Tea TORBENFELDT BENGTSSON , University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Young people’s risk-taking is in most contemporary societies a matter of concern. Research on troubled young people who have been placed in out-of-home care shows that these young people more often than other young people are involved in risk-taking behavior such as excessive drug use. What is rarely investigated, however, is troubled young people’s own ways of understanding their risk-taking behavior in the context of their everyday lives. This paper analyses the role of excessive drug use and its influence on young people’s self-narratives about their everyday lives. The young people’s drug use experiences continuously inform their perceptions of what they consider a ‘normal’ youth life and thus how they negotiate their self-narratives accordingly. This paper is based on 15 in-depth interviews with young people at age 18 who in their childhood have been placed in out-of-home care and have experiences with extensive drug use. Drawing on theories of stigmatization and normalization the paper demonstrates that what the young people conceive as a normal youth life is influenced by their drug use experiences and troubled childhoods. Their risk-taking behavior thus challenges their wish to create meaningful and coherent self-narratives and the result is often the creation of fragile self-narratives based on subtle negotiations of what they perceive as normal.