Crime Prevention and Community Safety

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 20–37 | Cite as

What is anti-social behaviour? An empirical study of the impact of age on interpretations

  • Susie Hulley
Original Article


‘Anti-social behaviour’ (ASB) has become an important political and social issue across Europe over the last two decades, despite much debate over the term itself. In England and Wales there is an assumption that what constitutes ASB is ‘common sense’ and that it represents behaviours that are ‘patently unacceptable’. Yet critics argue that the term is ‘slippery’ and, in practice, disproportionately applied to specific groups in society, including young people. This article reports the findings of a study in Greater London exploring interpretations of ASB among adults and young people. It shows that interpretations vary according to the age of the person identifying the behaviour, as well as the age of the perceived ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’. Adults are more likely to interpret behaviours as anti-social, particularly those associated with young people. The article considers how perceptions of risk influence interpretations and calls for greater inter-generational ‘connectedness’ to improve understandings of behaviour between adults and young people.


anti-social behaviour definition young people adults social connectedness 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susie Hulley
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Criminology, University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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