Thematic guide: youth culture studies (using qualitative data)

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"Youth groups started influencing music, television and cinema"

The study of youth culture saw a rapid expansion in the second half of the twentieth century as an increasing number of youth groups started influencing music, television and cinema.

Economic and social changes, such as increasing numbers of young people with growing financial means, played a big part in favourably influencing this emerging trend and pushing the various youth groups into mainstream culture.

Early studies often perceived youth culture as the study of 'trouble-makers' and young people who rebelled against societal norms.

As youth culture gradually entered the mainstream, the sociological study of youth shifted to the examination of young people's subjective experiences in contemporary society, as well as to the use of these accounts to inform changes in social life.

Studies such as Lloyd and Dittmar's examination of boys and girls' concerns with body image, along with Riley, Griffin and Morey’s study on dance culture, are good examples of this latter trend in the social research of youth culture.

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The Discover catalogue can be searched for data on youth culture studies using subject terms such as:

  • childhood
  • cultural life
  • family life
  • health
  • identity
  • role models
  • social behaviour
  • youth culture

Every data collection is accompanied by comprehensive documentation. These are open access and available to the public from the website and it is not necessary to be a registered user to access and download

The content of the documentation varies by collection, but usually includes information such as the initial proposal, interview schedule, description of methodology, end of award report, and so on.

In some cases more details are provided, such as the coding schemes of the original researchers or examples of the consent forms used.

Other resources on youth culture studies

Child care in Practice:

Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth:

Youth, Sound and Space – an online journal:


Summary of selected qualitative studies on youth culture studies

Study name Coverage Topics
SN 5777 Inventing Adulthoods: The Showcase Archive, 1996-2006
Henderson, S. et al.
This is a qualitative longitudinal study that 'walked alongside' young people as they moved from early teenage years to young adulthood in five contrasting areas of England and Northern Ireland during the period 1999 to 2004. This collection showcases the biographical material and provides a unique window on many aspects of young people's lives at the turn of the 21st century.
Sample: School children aged 14 to 16
Data: 107 interviews. Twenty cases interviewed up to six times. Second edition: added 55 semi-structured interviews
  • teenagers
  • young adulthood
  • growing up
SN 4073 Girls' and Boys' Body Image Concerns, 1997
Lloyd, B. and Dittmar, H.
The main aim of this project was to broaden and deepen understanding of 'normal' adolescent boys' and girls' body image concerns, in order to provide an appropriate basis for interventions aimed at promoting healthier diets and lifestyles.
Sample: Pupils in school years 8-12 in East Sussex during 1997
Data: 70 (target); 56 (obtained); Pupils (B) 16 (obtained); Focus group discussions (C) 18 (obtained); Individual interviews
  • body
  • puberty
  • media
  • adolescence
SN 5831 Doing Youth Justice: Analysing Risk and Need Assessments in Youth Justice Practice, 2004-2005
Phoenix, J.
The past decade has seen a rapid expansion in the numbers of young people drawn into the criminal justice system and custody. This study investigated how youth justice practitioners (including Youth Offending Team (YOT) workers, solicitors, police and lay magistrates) assess the risks and needs of young law-breakers, and make decisions and recommendations. The study also explored how the young offenders themselves engage in these processes.
Sample: All those involved in the adjudication of youth justice in a small Local Authority in England, 2004-2005.
Data: Interviews and focus groups with 12 magistrates; 8 police officers; 4 solicitors; 18 YOT workers; 26 young offenders

  • crime
  • law enforcement
  • youth
  • social welfare policy
  • social services
SN 6217 Branded Consumption and Social Identification: Young People and Alcohol Study, 2006-2007
Griffin, C.
This qualitative data collection examined young people and their relationship with alcohol and drinking practices. The study investigated the meanings that young people associate with drinking and how contemporary forms of alcohol marketing operate to constitute alcohol brands as discursive resources that young people can draw on.

Sample: Young people aged 18-25
Data: 89 people in 16 focus groups; 8 semi-structured individual interviews
  • consumer behaviour
  • drug abuse
  • alcohol
  • smoking
  • mass media
  • leisure
SN 6526 Reverberating Rhythms: Social and Political Identities in Clubland, 2005-2007
Riley, S., Griffin. C. and Morey, Y.
This qualitative data collection offers an empirical investigation of contemporary practices of social identities and political participation using electronic music dance culture (clubbing, raving, partying) as an example. Leisure-based activities have become important indicators of who we are and our place in society, including how we understand civic and political participation.

Sample: People involved in electronic dance music culture, in particular those who attended free party or drum and bass events in the South West of England, 2005-2007
Data: 38 interviews
  • political participation
  • clubbing/raving
  • youth culture
  • drug use/alcohol
  • music
  • youth

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