Exploring tentative lives

Reflexive social work with adolescents who stay in the space between respectability and disrespect with regard to substance use and law abidance


  • Anne Juberg




adolescents, experimentation with intoxicants, petty crime, conformity to standard norms, pre-reflection, reflexivity


Much social work practice with adolescents involved in activities known to be risky, such as experimentation with substances or petty crime, seems to have been influenced by the conventional input-output model which assumes an unreflected relationship between the present manifestation of risk and adverse future outcomes. This model relies on an uncertain scientific basis and does not really allow for the adolescents’ own reflexivity. This article aims at contributing to the shaping of more reflexive concepts for social work in this area, and is based on material derived from a focus group made up of 17 adolescents from Central Norway, aged 16-18 years old. The major foci of analysis were: i) how the adolescents positioned themselves with regard to conflicting notions of respectability, ii) which constructions of meaning might be attached to this positioning and iii) how the positioning might inform social work practice.

Author Biography

Anne Juberg

Research Fellow
Norwegian University of Science and Technology


Archer, L. (2004). “Re/Theorizing “Difference” in Feminist Research.” Women’s Studies International Forum 27 5-6: 459-73.

Arendt, H. (1971). The Life of the Mind. San Diego, New York, London: Harcourt Inc.

Armour, M., Rivaux, S. L., & Bell, H. (2009). “Using Context to Build Rigor: Application to Two Hermeneutic Phenomenological Studies,” Qualitative Social Work 8 1:101-22.

Aschenbach, T. M., & Rescorla, L. A. (2001). “Aseba School-Age Forms and Profiles: Youth Self Report.” Burlington VT: Library of Congress.

Backe-Hansen, E. (2007). “Alvorlige og mindre alvorlige atferdsproblemer blant ungdom.” Ung I Norge: Psykososiale Utfordringer. L. Wichstrøm, & E. Backe-Hansen (Eds.), Oslo: Cappelen Academisk forlag. 127- 45.

Bourdieu, P. (1986). “The Forms of Capital”. Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. J. Richardson (Ed.), New York: Greenwood Press. 46-58.

Bourdieu, P. (1990). In Other Words: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1992). Language and Symbolic Power. John B. Thompson (Ed.), Cambridge UK, Malden MA USA: Polity Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1995). Distinksjonen. En Sosiologisk Kritikk Av Dømmekraften. Oslo: Pax Forlag.

Bourdieu, P. (1998). Practical Reason - On the Theory of Action. Press, Polity. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Bourdieu, P. (2004). Science of Science and Reflexivity. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press and Polity Press.

Cohen, S. (2002). Folk Devils and Moral Panics. 3rd ed. London. New York Routledge.

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. Los Angeles ,London, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage Publications.

Eliassen, H., & Seikkula J. (2006). Reflekterende prosesser i praksis: Klientsamtaler, veiledning, konsultasjon og forskning. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Ericsson, K., Lundby, G., & Rudberg, M. (1994). Mors Nest Beste Barn: Ungdom, rusgift og kriminalitet Oslo Universitetsforlaget.

Erikson, E. H. (1980). Identity and the Life Cycle. New York: Norton.

Ferrell, J., Hayward, K, & Young, J. (2008). Cultural Criminology: An Invitation. London Sage Publications.

Ferrer-Wreder, L. et al. (2005). Framgångsrika Preventionsprogram För Barn Och Unga. En Forskningsöversikt. (A Review of Successful Prevention Programs for Children and Adolescents) Stockholm: Gothia: Institutet för utveckling av metoder i socialt arbete/IMS Statens Institutionsstyrelse.

Freire, P. (1977). De undertryktes Pædagogik. Odense: Christian Ejlers Forlag.

Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: self and society in the late modern age.
Cambridge: Polity Press.

Haraway, D. (1995). “Situerte Kunnskaper: Vitenskapsspørsmålet i feminismen og det partielle perspektivets forrang” En Kyborg Til Forandring - Nye Politikker I Moderne Vitenskaper og Teknologier Kristin Asdal, et al. (Eds.), Oslo: TMV - senteret. 43-65.

Hauge, R. (1980). Kriminalitet som ungdomsfenomen. Oslo-Bergen-Tromsø: Universitetsforlaget.

Hyde, A. et al. (2005). ”The Focus Group Method: Insights from Focus Group Interviews on Sexual Health with Adolescents.” Social Science & Medicine 61 12: 2588-99.

Hylland Eriksen, T. & Finess Tretvoll, H. (2006). Kosmopolitikk. En Optimistisk Politikk for Det 21. Århundre. Oslo: Cappelen.

Marthinsen, E., Røe M., & Hovland, W. (2006). Ungdom – “Rik” og “Fattig”. Trondheim NTNU.

Marthinsen, E. (2010). ”Fra sosiale problemer til symbolske byrder”. Fontene Forskning
1:112 – 17.

Maruna, S, & Copes, H. (2005). “What Have We Learned in Five Decades of Neutralization Research?” Crime and Justice: A Review of Research 32: 221-320.

Matza, D. (1964). Delinquency and drift: from the research program of the Center for the Study of Law and Society, University of California, Berkeley. New York: John Wiley.

Maume, M. O., Ousey, G. C., & Beaver, K. (2005). “Cutting the Grass: A Re-examination of the Link between Marital Attachment, Delinquent Peers and Desistance from Marijuana Use.” Journal of Quantitative Criminology 21 1:27-53.

Morgan, D. L. (1998). “What Do You Get from Focus Groups?” The Focus Group Guidebook. Focus Group Kit 1. Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Parker, H. (2005). “Normalization as a Barometer: Recreational Drug Use and the Consumption of Leisure by Younger Britons.” Addiction Research & Theory 13 3: 205-15.

Pedersen, W. (2006). Bittersøtt: Ungdom, sosialisering, rusmidler. 2nd ed. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Pedersen, W. (2009). “Cannabis Use: Subcultural Opposition or Social Marginality “ Acta Sociologica 52 2: 135-48.

Peretti-Watel, P. (2003). “Neutralization Theory and the Denial of Risk: Some Evidence from Cannabis Use among French Adolescents.” British Journal of Sociology 54 1: 21-42.

Reith, G. (2004). “Uncertain Times: The Notion of ‘Risk’ and the Development of Modernity.”Time & Society 13 2-3: 383-402.

Room, Robin. (2005). “Stigma, Social Inequality and Alcohol and Drug Use.” Drug and Alcohol Review 24 March 2005:143 – 55.

Rossow, I. (2008). “Alcohol Consumption and Discounting,” Addiction Research & Theory
16 6: 572 – 84.

Sahlin, I. (2000). “Conceptual and Functional Aspects of Prevention.” Nordisk Alkohol och Narkotikatidsskrift (English supplement) 17: 24-37.

Schulenberg, J., & Maggs, J. L. (2001). “A Developmental Perspective on Alcohol and Other Drug Use During Adolescence and the Transition to Young Adulthood.” Monitoring the Future. Institute for Social Research University of Michigan.

Seikkula, J. (2000). Åpne Samtaler. Sosiaaliset verkostot. Oslo:Tano Aschehoug.

Sharland, E. (2006). ”Young People, Risk Taking and Risk Making: Some Thoughts of Social Work”, The British Journal of Social Work 36 2: 247-65.

Sykes, O. M., & David Matza. (1957). “Techniques of Neutralization: A Theory of Delinquency” American sociological review 22 6: 664-70.

Taylor, C. (1995). Identitet, frihet och gemenskap. Politisk – filosofiska texter i urval av Harald Grimen. Göteborg, Sweden: Bokförlaget Daidalos.

Taylor, C. (2004). Modern Social Imaginaries. Durham: Duke University Press.

Thommesen, H. (2010). “Master Narratives and Narratives as Told by People with Mental Health and Drug Problems.” Journal of Comparative Social Work 1:1-16.

Threadgold, S., & Nilan, P. (2009). “Reflexivity of Contemporary Youth, Risk and Cultural Capital” Current Sociology 57 1: 47-68.

Tucker, J. S. et al. (2005). “Substance Use Trajectories from Early Adolescence to Emerging Adulthood: A Comparison of Smoking, Binge Drinking, and Marijuana Use.” Journal of Drug Issues 35 2: 307-32.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). Problems of General Psychology, The Collected Works of L.S. Vygotsky, Robert W. Reiber and Aaron S. Carton (Eds.), Vol. 1. New York Plenum.

Wibeck, V., Dahlgren. M. A., & Öberg, G. (2007). “Learning in Focus Groups: An Analytical Dimension for Enhancing Focus Group Research.” Qualitative Research 7 2: 249-67.

Wichstrøm, L, & Backe-Hansen, E. (2007). „Eksternaliserende Vansker“, Ung I Norge: Psykososiale Utfordringer L. Wichstrøm, & E. Backe-Hansen, (Eds.), Oslo: Cappelen Akademisk forlag. 119-26.

Wyn, J., & and White, R. (1997). Rethinking Youth. London. Thousand Oaks. New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Yi, R., Gatchalian, K. M, & Bickel, W. K. (2006). “Discounting of Past Outcomes.” Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology 14 3: 311-17.




How to Cite

Juberg, A. (2011). Exploring tentative lives: Reflexive social work with adolescents who stay in the space between respectability and disrespect with regard to substance use and law abidance. Journal of Comparative Social Work, 6(1), 16–34. https://doi.org/10.31265/jcsw.v6i1.55