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‘Steeling’ Young People: Resilience and Youth Policy in Scotland

  • Emma Davidson (a1) and Eric Carlin (a2)


This article examines the growth of resilience-focused youth policy in Scotland, and its association with the proliferation of the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) agenda. To do this, it critically compares policy discourse with qualitative data on young people’s experiences of growing up in two similar, low-income neighbourhoods. This combination leads us to problematise resilience-informed practice, relative to the voices of young people. Our review demonstrates that by emphasising individual protective factors, resilience discourse reframes inequalities embedded within certain neighbourhoods, and the specific impacts on young people who live there. The consequence is not an assets-based youth policy that supports all young people, but rather a form of resilience which promotes the ‘steeling’ of young people; making them stronger and more resistant to adversities. These adversities, we conclude, may be preventable within a more just social order.



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Social Policy and Society
  • ISSN: 1474-7464
  • EISSN: 1475-3073
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