Submitting InstitutionUniversity of the West of Scotland
Unit of AssessmentEducation
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Summary of the impact
The research reported here has provided `real world' insights into the
nature of young people's urban life, their involvement in gang violence
and sectarianism and the extent to and ways in which criminal justice
sanctions and social interventions reduce social strain and build
pro-social capital in their lives. The research has had a national and
international influence on public debate about violent youth offending and
on practice-based responses to the issue and has led to the further
development of services by community-based agencies and police officers in
Scotland who work with marginalised young people and young offenders.
The impacts reported in this case study emerge from original research
spanning the period 2008-2012, led and conducted by Professors Chris
Holligan (who was based at UWS throughout) and Professor Ross Deuchar (who
was initially a co-author at another institution, but subsequently
re-located to UWS in 2010). The research was qualitative in nature, and
mostly involved young persons aged 16-18 in the west of Scotland, although
some family members were later interviewed.
The initial research (3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.5) aimed to understand and
document the life worlds of young people in relation to the social
geography of their urban lives, involvement in gang culture and
sectarianism. It took a highly original and creative qualitative and
ethnographic approach to exploring how participants accumulate forms of
social capital and the implications for violent and sectarian actions. The
findings suggested that territorial issues dominated; gang culture
affiliations and delinquent activities were a means of excitement,
identity and status; gang membership offered a `compensating effect'; home
lives, due to issues of poverty and deprivation, seemed not to provide
bonding or bridging social capital; gang membership led to mental and
material exclusion from conventional communities, entrapment in
disadvantaged housing schemes and hostility from conventional institutions
(schools and the police); conflict between rival housing schemes meant
that Rangers and Celtic supporters - despite histories of sectarianism -
often came together to form friendships; although the activity associated
with gangs was not seen as sectarian in terms of religious bigotry,
`flashpoints' resulted in a proxy religious bigotry being used as a
`resource' for masculine aggression; there was evidence to suggest that
young people were subject to a form of bonding social capital which put
pressure on them to conform to certain cultural expectations and narrow
views of masculinity; the urban landscapes the young people inhabited were
dictated by spatial and politicised boundaries which confined their lives
and identities; although the territoriality and football tribalism which
emerged in the young people's lives had some positive impact in terms of
the sense of bonding which emerged, it also led to diminished levels of
trust, tolerance and agency.
More recent research by Deuchar has identified new insights that suggest
that, while a minority of young refugees may join gangs as a means of
responding to discrimination and/or the threat of racial violence, many
others find themselves stigmatised and wrongly accused of being gang
members because of their street-oriented activity and large social
groupings (3.4). In addition, Deuchar has produced new knowledge about the
impact of criminal justice sanctions such as curfews and electronic
monitoring - illustrating that these sanctions have some limited success
in reducing anti-social capital in the lives of those who engage in
violent offending but that, when used in isolation, they often fail to
build pro-social capital and - in some cases - function as an additional
social strain conducive to further violent offending (3.6).
References to the research
(3.1) Deuchar, R. and Holligan, C. (2008) Social Capital Issues and
Sectarianism: A Pilot Study into the Possible Existence and Nature of a
Sectarian Habitus among Young People. British Academy.
(3.2) Holligan, C. and Deuchar, R. (2009) Territorialities in Scotland:
perceptions of young people in Glasgow, Journal of Youth Studies,
12 (6): 727-742.
(3.3) Deuchar, R. and Holligan, C. (2010) Gangs, sectarianism and social
capital: a qualitative study of young people in Scotland, Sociology,
44 (1): 13-30.
(3.4) Deuchar, R. (2011) `People look at us, the way we dress, and they
think we're gangsters': bonds, bridges, gangs and refugees - a qualitative
study of inter cultural social capital in Glasgow, Journal of Refugee
Studies 24(4): 672-689.
(3.5) Holligan, C. and Deuchar, R. (2011) Contested urban spaces:
exploring the analytics of young persons' experiences of living in
Glasgow's deprived zones, Pastoral Care in Education 29 (2):
(3.6) Deuchar (2012) The impact of curfews and electronic monitoring on
the social strains, support and capital experienced by youth gang members,
Criminology and Criminal Justice 12 (2): 113-128.
Details of the impact
The research described above has impacted on the nature of public debate
about youth gangs, violence, sectarianism and criminal justice responses
to young offenders. The Scottish media has shown intense and consistent
interest in the research and dissemination therein and has led to many
invitations to give additional presentations/keynotes and to lead
professional development programmes. Firstly, this was achieved through
Deuchar and Holligan's own media contributions (see 5.3 - 5.7 for
examples). Secondly, it was achieved through journalists' reporting of the
insights from Deuchar's research, which on occasions created vociferous
online public discussion about the issues (5.1, 5.2, 5.8). And thirdly, it
was achieved through Deuchar's appearances on television current affairs
programmes such as Scotland Today, Newsnight, The Politics Show
and the WKRC Local 12 News in Cincinnati. Ohio throughout
2009-2012, with the latter contributing towards public debate in the State
of Ohio and subsequent invitations to deliver keynote presentations to
both academic and practitioner audiences in European locations such as
Porto, Helsinki and Hillerød near Copenhagen.
As a result of this publicity and wider engagement, Deuchar drew upon the
research insights to underpin the development of new knowledge exchange
and CPD programmes for practitioners in Scotland, and this led to
subsequent impact on practice. For example, youth workers within the Youth
Community Support Agency (YCSA) in Glasgow attended a CPD session
run by Deuchar in 2009 and commented in course evaluations that the
session had helped them to understand the `thought process of young people
in gangs'. In addition, senior and operational police officers who
attended Deuchar's knowledge exchange seminars that he ran within police
leadership training with guest inputs from reformed young offenders
commented that the sessions illustrated the 'benefits of using applied
academic research in police training' in making a 'very robust training
product that has a noticeable impact on front-line policing'.
Between 2009-13, several community-based organisations and policing teams
who are heavily involved in delivery of professional services for young
people were able to become beneficiaries of Deuchar and Holligan's
research. These organisations drew upon the research to gain new funding
for programmes, and/or developed their existing practice as a result of
the research. For example, in one testimonial, the former Assistant
Regional Director with Aberlour Child Care Trust notes that, in
establishing a new streetwork programme for young people in deprived
communities in Glasgow, Deuchar's research offered a `sound conceptual
framework' which was used to look at how the new service was designed and
described and how the organisation might measure its outcomes. He also
notes that being able to draw upon the research was `significant' in being
able to secure funding of over £0.5 million from the Big Lottery in order
to implement the new streetwork programme. In another testimonial, a
serving officer from the Community Policing Team in Drumchapel, Glasgow,
highlights that he was able to draw upon the research to `construct a
series of youth workshops to help understand gang related difficulties in
the Drumchapel area of Glasgow, inviting local residents, youth group
leaders and senior police managers to form part of the discussion group'.
From an international perspective, the Project Manager at Grundtvigs
Hojskole, Hillerød, near Copenhagen, comments in his testimonial that the
content of the keynote lecture and workshop Deuchar gave at the
International Gangs Seminar held there in September 2013 was `inspiring'
and that participating practitioners felt that the practical exercises
provided them with a `range of strategies that Danish practitioners can
use with street socialised groups'.
As a result of Deuchar and Holligan's close partnership with the Scottish
Government Community Safety Unit, Scottish policy debate was also
stimulated and informed by their research. For example, the 2010 Scottish
Government publication Troublesome Youth Groups, Gangs and Knife
Carrying in Scotland made direct reference to Deuchar's work in its
quest to identity the nature of gang culture in Scotland (5.9), while the
2011 Scottish Government Thematic Report on Knife Crime referred
to Deuchar's work on curfews in identifying best practice in tackling
knife crime in Scotland (5.10). In one further testimonial, the former
head of the Community Safety Unit says, `Professor Deuchar's work has been
at the forefront of our thinking in developing violence reduction and
wider community safety policy ... his thinking is clear and well-suited
for uptake into policy, and it has had a direct impact on how policy and
practice has evolved.'
In 2010, Deuchar was runner-up for the ESRC Michael Young Prize, in
recognition of the significant impact his research has on audiences beyond
Sources to corroborate the impact
(5.1) Allan, V. (2011) Curfews make crime worse, warns academic, Daily
Record, 14 January.
(5.2) Christie, L. (2009) Street gang attacks stops kids from walking
home through Scots estates, Daily Record, 4 August.
(5.3) Deuchar, R. (2011) Early intervention is essential to save lost
boys, The Herald: Society, 25 January.
(5.4) Deuchar, R. (2008). It's
a jungle out there for the teenage territorials. The Herald:
Society, 10 June.
(5.5) Deuchar, R. (2009). United
front can help youngsters escape violence. The Herald, 27
(5.6) Holligan, C. (2008) In `tribal' Scotland we must learn to know our
neighbours, The Scotsman, 5 February.
(5.7) Holligan, C. (2012) Children are the innocent victims of criminal
justice, TESS, 3 August.
(5.8) Rose, G. (2012) Young offenders prefer prison to freedom, Scotland
on Sunday, 29 July.
(5.9) Scottish Government (2010) Troublesome Youth Groups, Gangs and
Knife Carrying in Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.
(5.10) Scottish Government (2011) Thematic Report on Knife Crime.
Edinburgh: Scottish Government.
Beneficiaries of Research
- Former Assistant Regional Director: Childcare Aberlour Trust
- Police Constable: Community Policing Team, Drumchapel, Police Scotland
- Project Manager: Grundtvigs Hojskole, Hillerød, near Copenhagen,
- Former Head of the Community Safety Unit: Scottish Government
Testimonials are also available on request from the following:
- Deputy Head of Leadership and Professional Development: Scottish
- Youth Worker: Youth Community Support Agency (YCSA), Glasgow
- Services Manager: Family Action in Rogerfield and Easterhouse (FARE),