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PhD opportunity at Manchester Metropolitan University

Copyrights: MMU

PhD opportunity at Manchester Metropolitan University

This project will explore the effectiveness of using sport to change attitudes or cognitive schema in relation to youth offending. Participatory research methods will be used to engage with young people and community groups involved in sporting initiatives.

Aims and objectives

The United Kingdom is not the only country to have a history of promoting sport as a way of tackling youth crime and anti-social behaviour (see Midnight Basketball schemes, Hartmann 2001), yet the importance placed on sport as a ‘moral good’, has become particularly ingrained in recent British politics (Conservative Party 2009, 2010; Labour Party 1997), despite there being little definitive evidence to support the assumption that sport is effective in reducing youth crime (Meek 2014; Kelly 2012; Coalter 2009). Indeed, academic research in community settings which focuses on the re-engagement of marginalised young people through sport has yielded inconclusive results in terms of efforts to reduce offending, particularly as a result of the inevitable methodological limitations of small-scale evaluation studies. Accordingly, these methodological shortcomings may have resulted in some commentators questioning the successful impact of sport based community initiatives on recidivism and reduction in anti-social behaviour. Yet, sport schemes based in the community, remain for its most disadvantaged members, one of the most prominent types of positive activities and interventions. Arguably, this is because sport and sporting aspirations, have a powerful impact on not only identity development, but they also undoubtedly have the potential to address proximal risk factors for youth crime.

In community and custodial settings, sport has been effective in attracting young people and improving performance in activities that they are not normally motivated to engage in (Meek 2014; Nichols and Taylor 1996). Moreover, this method of active learning commonly seen in sport, has been identified as a key element in the ‘what works’ literature on reducing offending (Nichols and Taylor 1996; Sharpe et al 2004). Sport therefore, is a valuable resource in motivating young people who are both marginalised and reluctant to engage in conventional positive activities. However, more research needs to be undertaken, not only to assess the effectiveness of these reduced rates of offending anti-social behaviour, but the contribution that sport can make in both facilitating pro-social identities and accruing social capital.

This project will therefore contribute towards this growing area of research by designing and co-creating participatory action research methods with young people involved in sporting activities and/or offending behaviour. Hence, the overarching research objectives of this project would enable a measurement of young people’s involvement in sport against the outcomes below.

To enhance the social capital and social networks of young people engaged with sport and encourage resilience to make positive choices away from offending behaviour;

To enhance the personal wellbeing of young people engaged with sporting projects.

This project is unique in its methods of study, using Participatory Action Research among young people involved in sport to prevent the risk of offending/anti-social behaviour, is new and ground breaking. Prior research into this area has mainly focused upon small-scale evaluation studies and has therefore failed to capture the experiences and voices of young people themselves.


Specific requirements of the project

Applicants should have a good 1st degree in a related discipline such as Criminology, Sociology, Youth Studies, Sport Science or Psychology and preferably have completed a Masters in a related discipline.

The successful candidate will primarily have an academic interest in and understanding of criminological desistance literature, and be familiar with the ‘what works’ literature. Previous experience of working with young people, youth work, sport development and youth justice in an academic, professional or voluntary capacity is important.

Methodologically, knowledge and experience of both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis is essential. Preferably, this will include experience of participatory research methods, qualitative interviewing with young people, quantitative data enquiry and familiarity with quantitative and qualitative data software (i.e. SPSS, NVivo).

Substantively, candidates should be capable of evidencing some pre-existing knowledge of youth justice, youth offending and sports development.

Theoretically, there is an expectation that the successful candidate will be able to build upon existing understandings of young people, desistance theories, sports initiatives and offending behaviour. This should include a demonstration of the capacity to embrace theories and develop theoretical frameworks that will enhance existing understanding of the interplay between youth offending and sport.


The project start date is expected to be September 2017 and is open to UK and EU Students

Informal enquiries can be made to: Katherine Walthall


Closing date for applications is 31 January 2017


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Wednesday, December 7, 2016 - 00:00

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