Teachers and youth workers need to collaborate more to tackle anti-social behaviour by young people, an academic has warned.
Professor Ross Deuchar of the University of the West of Scotland said a clash of cultures often got in the way of collaborative work to help young people move away from problem behaviours and "step up into the roles of citizen and adult".
A difference in ideologies meant that there was a need for more "border crossing"' efforts between the professions, he explained.
Prof Deuchar, director of the UWS institute Institute for Youth and Community Research, was speaking about research carried out with Jennifer Ellis of the University's School of Education into the way Scottish schools and youth workers can change the lives of young people involved in gang issues, alcohol and drug dependency and anti-social behaviour. He said there was an increasing recognition among experts and policy makers that stopping problem behaviour before it starts can be more effective than sanctions once it occurs.
Academics interviewed 35 boys and girls, aged between 11 and 12, from schools in the west of Scotland. The pupils were known to engage in disruptive behaviour, including, in some cases, local territorial gang activity.
Over 30 weeks in 2010 and 2011 teachers held workshops three times a week in schools, where young people explored the social issues they commonly face. Youth workers worked with the same pupils looking at moral reasoning and team-building skills. Although the youth workers liaised with teachers about the pupils' backgrounds, teaching staff left the youth workers involved to work with pupils independently.
Prof Deuchar said the results showed that disadvantaged young people would only move away from anti-social behaviour if they were provided with social supports to equip them better to manage the pressures around them.
He claimed programmes based on ethical youth work ideology, such as building empathy, respect and opportunities for youth empowerment, could be highly effective and should become more commonplace in schools.
He added: "Young people who participated in the research gained an increase in social capital, changed their reactions to social strains and demonstrated a change in their self-reported participation in anti-social behaviour.
"However, the participants continued to view teachers and youth workers as two distinct groups with differing ideologies. Genuine collaboration between youth workers and teachers is needed to create more success at reaching out to the most vulnerable young people and preventing – rather than reacting to – their involvement in anti-social and gang-related behaviour."
The authors also call for more research into the nature of contemporary high school cultures and their impact on vulnerable young people.