Questioning the vulnerability zeitgeist: care and control practices with 'vulnerable' young people

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This article provides insights into how the concept of vulnerability operates in welfare and disciplinary processes for young people who are considered ‘vulnerable’. It reports from empirical qualitative research conducted in a large city in England which included interviews with vulnerable young people and with professionals working with this group. Findings highlight that despite differences of opinion about what constitutes ‘vulnerability’, it is a popular and powerful conceptual mechanism which underpins the delivery of service interventions for certain young people. A relationship between vulnerability and ‘transgression’ is revealed, calling into question dichotomous representations of young people as either ‘vulnerable victims’ or ‘dangerous wrong-doers’. It is argued that whilst it can be utilised in the pursuit of more ‘caring’ interventions with those who are seen to be ‘in need’, vulnerability is also a concept relevant to debates concerning selective welfare systems and behavioural regulation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Issue number3
Early online date27 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

© 2013 Cambridge University Press


  • Vulnerability
  • Young people
  • Social control
  • Conditionality

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