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An Ethnographic Study of Ethical Practices in Relationships Between Young People and Youth Workers.

HART, PETER (2016) An Ethnographic Study of Ethical Practices in Relationships Between Young People and Youth Workers. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Through this research I aimed to understand more about the ethical issues youth workers face in practice, using a comparative mini-ethnographic methodology. Compared to relationships young people share with other professionals, this ‘youth work relationship’ often has greater flexibility, wider and more nebulous concepts of professional boundaries, and inhabits an inherently more informal space. I begin by highlighting the contested concepts of youth work, and how they relate to dominant discourses in professional ethics. I acknowledge the reality of youth workers who may be in a risk-averse organisational structure, which promotes particular ways of working predominantly for the protection of the organisation.

The original contribution to knowledge within this thesis is in empirically recognising the ethical issues inherent in youth work relationships and beginning to develop a virtue ethics for youth work. In particular, it is through naming eight observed inter-related themes of the youth work relationship, and arguing that the appropriateness of behaviours and interactions should be understood holistically rather than through relatively simplistic codes and roles, that new understandings of ethical issues in youth work are created. I therefore conclude by arguing the complexity of the youth work relationship can be understood through a virtue ethics framework. Virtue ethics is helpful as the character of the worker is particularly important, and it is through both having a ‘major premise’ or telos of the youth work relationship, and through having a disposition to be professionally wise, act with integrity, and be trustworthy, that workers can navigate these complex relationships.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Youth work, virtue ethics, professional boundaries,
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:22 Mar 2016 08:42

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