Anatomy of an Endemic Juvenile Panic: An Investigation into the Influence of British Newspaper Narratives on Contemporary Discourse around Children

Morrison, James. 2013. Anatomy of an Endemic Juvenile Panic: An Investigation into the Influence of British Newspaper Narratives on Contemporary Discourse around Children. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Children occupy an ever-more prominent position in public discourse in late-modern Britain, with politicians, news media and other key definers consistently depicting childhood as inherently problematic. Popular portrayals of juveniles tend to conceive of them as being subject to multifarious ‘risks’, with younger children, in particular, considered vulnerable to all manner of threats – from illnesses and medical emergencies to technological perils to the predations of deviant elements in society. When not threatened themselves, moreover, they are frequently depicted as presenting a menace to others, in a manner redolent of earlier moral panics about subversive youth sub-cultures. Drawing on a rich literature of research into news-making, textual framing and media reception, this thesis uses a triangulated methodology to explore the interplay between contemporary newspaper journalists, their sources of news, the narratives they weave, and (actual or potential) members of their audiences. It argues that the dominant, at times paradoxical, positioning of children – by press and public alike – as either or both of victims and threats amounts to an endemic ‘juvenile panic’, which is rooted in a continuum of ambivalences about minors that can be traced through history. This simmering state of panic boils over whenever it finds purchase in singular dramatic events – fuelled by the demands of a commercially driven media; journalists’ pragmatic reliance on official sources with fear-promoting agendas; and the public’s appetite for a good horror story. It is further argued that a particular focus on the dangers posed by ‘familiar strangers’ (adult or juvenile) acts as a displacement for deep-seated concerns stemming from recent changes in Britain’s society and economy - notably growing personal insecurity and the slow decline of social trust.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Keywords:

moral panics; risk; children; teenagers; juveniles; media effects; audiences; strangers; social trust; interpersonal trust

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies

Date:

2013

Item ID:

10433

Date Deposited:

30 Jun 2014 13:05

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:59

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/10433

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