In good company: Risk, security and choice in young people’s drug decisions

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This article draws on original empirical research with young people to question the degree to which ‘individualisation of risk’, as developed in the work of Beck and Giddens, adequately explains the risks young people bear and take. It draws on alternative understandings and critiques of ‘risk’ not to refute the notion of the reflexive individual upon which ‘individualisation of risk’ is based but to re-read that reflexivity in a more hermeneutic way. It explores specific risk-laden moments – young people's drug use decisions – in their natural social and cultural context of the friendship group. Studying these decisions in context, it suggests, reveals the meaning of ‘risk’ to be not given, but constructed through group discussion, disagreement and consensus and decisions taken to be rooted in emotional relations of trust, mutual accountability and common security. The article concludes that ‘the individualisation of risk’ fails to take adequate account of the significance of inter-subjectivity in risk-decisions. It argues also that addressing the theoretical overemphasis on the individual bearer of risk requires not only further empirical testing of the theory but appropriate methodological reflection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-392
Number of pages20
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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