Author: Russell Turner


Set against a backdrop of a need to develop new theories of youth ‘risk’ behaviour, a
groundwork for how such theoretical work might be undertaken is described. Metatheoretical principles from critical realism are used to help clarify issues such as causality
in an open world, adolescents as stratified social agents, and science as a value-laden
practice. A methodology for developing fallibilistic, context-sensitive knowledge is also
outlined. These principles are applied to two influential risk behaviour theories—the social development model and problem behaviour theory—to illustrate how existing theory can be clarified and developed. In particular, current theories may negate
adolescent agency in relation to different socio-ecological contexts. Moreover, there is a
need for greater reflexivity about the moral frameworks that implicitly guide theory
and thus practice. Examples of quantitative empirical studies are also discussed to demonstrate how they contribute towards building realistic theories for prevention practice.

This research is financed by:

Swedish Research Council, FORTE, VINNOVA, Formas

Contact: Russell Turner

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