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The Concept of Vulnerability and its Use in the Care and Control of Young People

Brown, Catherine Elizabeth (2013) The Concept of Vulnerability and its Use in the Care and Control of Young People. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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The idea of ‘vulnerability’ shapes the ways that individuals and groups are managed and classified, from benefits claims to criminal prosecutions and child protection. Yet as a concept, it is little-understood. This thesis is an exploration of how the notion of ‘vulnerability’ is influential in contemporary social policy. The research focuses on young people in particular, in order to give detailed attention to the ways in which ideas about vulnerability affect welfare and disciplinary systems. Official understandings of ‘vulnerability’ are examined and influential constructions of the concept are reviewed. The study also reports from an empirical investigation into the ‘operationalisation’ of vulnerability in service interventions with ‘vulnerable’ young people. This empirical element involved analysis of the perspectives and practices of professionals working with ‘vulnerable’ young people in a large northern city in England, as well as consideration of the views and experiences of ‘vulnerable’ young people themselves. Findings highlight that vulnerability is a powerful conceptual mechanism which underpins the delivery of service interventions for certain groups, with various practical effects. The notion helps to assist groups and individuals who may be dealing with significant problems and difficulties. At the same time, due to links with ‘deservingness’, discourses of vulnerability are shown to subtly but pervasively serve wider policy mechanisms which establish what is appropriate and ‘correct’ behaviour, and that discipline individuals where they fail to conform. This thesis seeks to generate insights into ‘vulnerable’ young people’s social worlds, as well as the systems and processes which govern their lives. It makes a contribution towards developing understandings of the conceptual dimensions of ‘vulnerability’ and also of lived experiences of being ‘vulnerable’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.581643
Depositing User: Repository Administrator
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2013 11:19
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2014 11:28
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/4433

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