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Risky behaviour and social activities

What next? youth graffiti
Published: November 2009


We conducted this study to investigate young people's social and anti-social behaviour and how their behaviours and activities related to school attainment and economic status after compulsory education.


Risky behaviour against others tends to decline as young people grow older but increases against themselves

We found that many young people smoke, drank alcohol and played truant (risky behaviours largely directed against themselves), and that the proportions increased from age 14 to 16.

We also found that fewer engaged in graffitiing, vandalism, shoplifting or fighting (risky behaviours directed against others or property), and that they became less likely to do so as they grew older.

Risky behaviour increases overall from age 14 to 16 but some types decrease

Four in 10 young people engaged in at least one of the seven risky behaviours directed against themselves, others or property at age 14. This increased to five in 10 by age 16.

In contrast, the proportion of young people who grafittied, vandalised public property, shoplifted or got involved in fights decreased from three in 10 at age 14 to two in 10 at age 16.

There's a correlation between risky behaviour and social activities

Going out with friends, going to pubs or parties often coincided with an increase in both types of risky behaviour. But taking less of a part in these socialising activities did not lead to less risky behaviour.

Risky behaviour is associated with lower GCSE results

Engaging in risky behaviour and not participating in developmental activities were typically associated with lower GCSE results.

Those with the most risky behaviours were often negative about school or their parents

One in 20 16-year-olds engaged in at least two risky behaviours directed against themselves and at least two risky behaviours directed against others or property.

They often shared negative attitudes towards school, had been bullied and reported poor relations with their parents.


The 2009 study used data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), a nationally representative survey that follows a single cohort of young people from the age of 14 to 25.

Read the report