Kids are like that!

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Kids are like that!”

Community attitudes to young people


Natalie Bolzan


National Youth Affairs Research Scheme

Copyright © 2003, National Youth Affairs Research Scheme

ISBN 1 875236 57 0
This paper has been prepared by the National Youth Affairs Research Scheme and is intended to provide background research and other information as a basis for discussion.

The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the National Youth Affairs Steering Committee; Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs; or individual Commonwealth or State/Territory Youth Ministers or Departments responsible for Youth Affairs.


List of tables, graphs and charts iv

Acknowledgments v
Executive summary vi
Chapter 1 Introduction 1
Chapter 2 Concepts, tools and context 4

2.1 Clarification of concepts 4

2.2 Establishing context: young people and problems 9

2.3 Summary 13

Chapter 3 The research process 14

3.1 Research personnel 14

3.2 Research issues 14

3.3 Methodological approach 15

3.4 Component one: community attitudes 16

3.5 Component two: media analyses 19

Chapter 4 Results 21

    1. General community survey 21

    2. In-depth interviews with young people 31

    3. Focus groups with significant groups in the community 48

    4. Media analyses 66

    5. How attitudes can be changed 78

Chapter 5 Conclusions 92

    1. The nature of the community’s perceptions
      of young people 93

    2. The nature of young people’s perceptions of youth 94

    3. The different factors influencing the formation
      of such attitudes and perceptions 94

    4. The extent of stereotyping of young people 95

    5. The impact of stereotyping on young people 96

    6. Areas of positive and negative portrayal 96

    7. The relative impact and importance of these factors 96

    8. Suggested approaches for government 96

    9. Policy implications and directions 98

5.10 Through the unseen barrier 99

1 Steering committee 100

2 ACNeilsen omnibus survey format 101
3 Interview schedule for young people 102
4 Community focus group topics 103

References 104

List of tables, graphs and charts

Table 4.1 Sample responses by sex, age and location relative

to the total Australian population 21

Chart 4.1 Overall responses from the general community

survey 22

Table 4.2 Positive and negative discourse responses by sex 27

Table 4.3 Sources of opinions nominated by respondents 29

Table 4.4 The geographic locations of young people

interviewed 31

Table 4.5 Demographic profile of respondents 32

Table 4.6 Profile of focus groups 49

Table 4.7 Number of media reports by subject –

July week 1999 67

Table 4.8 Number of media reports by subject –

February 2000 72

Graph 4.1 Media topics in the Northern Territory

and Australia 76


I would like to express my gratitude to the National Youth Affairs Research Scheme (NYARS) for providing me with the opportunity to undertake this important and fascinating research. I would particularly like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the young people who not only worked on this research but also often drove it with their enthusiasm, commitment and wisdom. The young researchers and the entire steering committee provided an invaluable and informative guide to this project and their multiple contributions must be acknowledged. I would like to express my sincerest thanks to Jennifer Power, Andrew Marsden, Sheree Turner, Erin Mathews, Tammy Cornell, Ardie Docherty, Tram Nguyen and Liz Kennedy.
The participants in this research were generous in the time they gave to the research and thoughtful in their contribution. I would like to thank the many young people, teachers, police officers, parents, seniors, shopkeepers, businesspeople, youth workers, non-government workers and policy officers whose responses are presented in this report. They gave freely of their experience and wisdom and I hope that I have done some justice to their contribution.
I would also like to thank my colleagues Michelle Wheeler, Janet Ramsay, Hillary Bone, Mick Hillman and Jane Mears who read drafts of this report, whose comments were greatly appreciated and whose enthusiasm for this project never waned.

Executive summary

The image of young people, as portrayed in the media and reflected in indicators of community attitudes, has increasingly been characterised as negative and detrimental to young people’s active participation in civic life. This national project to explore determinants of community attitudes to young people was commissioned by the National Youth Affairs Research Scheme (NYARS) and was undertaken by researchers at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) in the Child and Youth Policy Research Unit (CYPRU).

The purpose of the research was:

  • to investigate how the broader community develops its perceptions of young people, and

  • to identify ways that governments can improve community perceptions of young people.

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