What Are The Needs Of Young People & How Can We Best Meet Them Through Youth Work?

In this essay, I will discuss the needs of young people by drawing on multiple literatures and I will explain how youth workers can meet these needs. Youth workers “put young people’s needs, interests, hopes and anxieties at the heart of what they do” (Wood, Westwood, & Thompson 2015, p9) and this is what I will be doing when I become one; prioritising people’s well-being and helping them with any of their struggles in life.

Kellmer Pringle’s book called Needs Of Children in 1986, states that young people must have these needs met to reach their full potential, to grow into adults and to enjoy their lives. Love and Security is one of them, which can be shown through being caring, accepting and supportive to young people. Love and security can be shown by protecting them from harm which comes under safeguarding young people. New experiences is another need which Pringle believes should be met, this can be provided to young people by giving them different activities / opportunities each week, by progressing them into “more difficult achievements”.  Praise and recognition is another need which must be met according to Pringle, this can be achieved by youth workers by congratulating the young people when they have done well at something, by showing that they care about what the young people are doing. Finally, responsibilities is the final need which Pringle believes must be met, youth workers can meet this need by giving tasks to the young people whilst they are at the centre such as: cleaning up, getting equipment or activities out etc.

Young people need attention and at times, parents do not provide this to their children; therefore, it is important that youth workers show that they care and give young people their full attention. When a child is not able to get attention from their parents they will do something just to get attention according to Goldsmith (2010). This shows that children or young people will likely not act out if they are shown attention by those around them such as, their parents or carers. Some young people need attention, this could be due to their upbringing and not being shown enough care towards them – however, it could be to do with how they being treated at present in their home situation. Youth workers can meet this need by talking to the young person and showing them interest. If a young person confides in a youth worker, the youth worker can be supportive to them, to show that they care about them. Whilst giving attention, as a youth worker, you need to maintain your professionalism at all times by acknowledging what your boundaries are. It would be acceptable for you to show empathy to a young person by being supportive and having your hand on their shoulder; but having a cuddle is not acceptable for some people and that is where the line is drawn. As youth workers, we need boundaries, if we feel that a client is being clingy we need to enforce that there cannot be too much physical contact in place and that you need your “personal space”. Youth workers should not break young people’s personal space and young people should not break youth workers personal space – this is where you communicate with each other to know what the boundaries are.

Youth workers must use discipline and emphasise boundaries to young people, in order for them to learn what is right and wrong. When running a youth centre, you need to set rules for each group. The young people can help contribute in what they want to be a rule so then they are having independence in making their own decisions. The reason for this is that the centre will not have any structure if there are not any rules in place. You have to tell the young people what the boundaries are and tell them that they have a chance, but if they break those boundaries there will be consequences such as, being removed from the centre. Young people need discipline “believes that discipline is not punishing someone or showing control, but in fact it is educating people” (Nelsen, Lott & Glenn, 2007). This is what youth workers do when they discipline young people – it is to educate them about the wrong choices they could make and how it could impact on their lives. As a youth worker, rules need to be enforced at all times – for example, at the centre I am working at, drugs and alcohol is being used by a lot of the young people. We inform them about the consequences of attending the centre under the influence which is contacting the police or their parents and asking them to leave; so that they are aware of the rules. Lee and Frost state that providing discipline to young people it teaches them their right and wrongs, which as a result will give them the skills of self-discipline (Lee, 2018) (Frost, 2018).


Participation is a big part of young people’s lives and is an important need which needs to be met so that they get the opportunity to engage with others and learn new skills.John Huskins made a participation model in 1996, which shows youth workers the different levels of participation in young people (there are seven stages).  Young people need to participate in multiple activities to improve their social development. In stage one of this model “Information and Opportunity”, this is where young people first attend the youth centre which is where they learn about different services the centre provides and they get to know the youth workers. In the first stage, this is where youth workers will provide new experiences for young people by giving them the opportunity to access the centre and make new friends. In the second stage “Meet Again”, this is where young people return to the centre due to being interested in it. This is when they start to communicate with the other young people there and they try to build new relationships with the workers as well. In this stage, youth workers can meet their social needs by encouraging the new young people to engage in group activities so they can get to know those around them. The third stage “Socialise/Regular Contact”, is where young people may look for advice from the workers and tell them what they are currently experiencing in their lives whether it is positive or negative. This part of the model is where youth workers can meet the emotional needs of young people by providing support and advice at all times. Youth workers can meet the needs of love/security by showing that they care about the young people’s feelings. Stage four, is where they “Take Part” in various activities which will help them build bonds with others; in this stage youth workers can provide praise/recognise what the young people are succeeding in by letting them know that they are doing well. Stage five, is where young people “Get Involved” and learn how to take responsibility for their actions and other peoples. In the sixth stage, young people usually get involved in “Organising” and preparing activities with the support of the youth workers; they get to choose what they want to do during the sessions or for future sessions. In the final stage, young people start to “Lead” sessions/activities within the centre and make multiple decisions for other young people. At this stage, they begin to feel confident within themselves and they start to become more independent (Bradford, 2000). All these stages are important for young people as these are the different stages they go through to develop their social needs.

Informal education is an approach which youth workers use to educate young people and by providing this, it meets young people’s intellectual needs. It is about educating them about important issues which young people face during their lives, information which they need to know and at times, what they are not taught in school – such as, drug and alcohol awareness or information on sexual health. A lot of young people ask about these subjects as it is something they want and need to know, in schools they are not taught much on these topics which is why it is important for youth workers to do so – but in an informal way such as, sitting around a table with a cup of tea talking to the young people about it and answering any questions they may have about the subject or even by making quizzes for the, to participate in and then discuss their answers at the end so that it leads into a group discussion. Often young people feel more comfortable to discuss certain topics with youth workers as they find them more approachable, friendlier, and more supportive than teachers. This is why it is so important to ensure that we maintain the way we are as youth workers so that we do not let the young people down. Young people need to be educated about drugs, alcohol, sex, housing and so on as it is vital for their development to be aware of the things they may experience in their future. Youth workers provide informal education to young people by having no set objectives or structure, but just going with the flow and being “spontaneous” as stated by Jeffs and Smith (1997, 2005 & 2011). It is stated that adolescents feel they learn more outside of school, than they do in – they learn more through their interactions with friends or people they associate with outside of the school they go to such as, youth workers according to Guzzetti, Elliot and Welsch, 2015. By informally educating young people, it will meet their intellectual needs as they will gain more knowledge about what is important to them for example, how to be independent, how to look after their health, what is a harm to them, what is going on around the world and so on.

Young people need to have a good self-esteem, to have a good mental health and to feel confident about themselves. Stanley Coppersmith created the theory that peoples self-esteem is all based on how they were brought up – by how much love they were given, as well as “security” (Nayler, 2010). Some people who have had a bad experience or multiple experiences during their upbringing will have a lack of self confidence and self-esteem which is why it is important, as youth workers, to support those who have had a negative upbringing. Young people need a lot of support in their self, as a youth worker, it could be a good idea to support them by letting them “Participate” and take “Responsibility, by giving them the opportunity to help around the centre by tidying up or planning activities for the other young people; this can boost their confidence and their self-esteem as they will feel empowered. If a young person has a low self-esteem, it could be beneficial to support them by praising them when they have done well, to boost their confidence. If they make a little mistake for example, not getting out the right equipment; to support them you could remind that young person of times they have done well and succeeded, and reiterate that they are not a failure, that lots of people make mistakes including their role models such as, celebrities.

Teenagers and young adults need socialisation as that is what shapes them as Long-Crowell said that most of our behaviour is learnt through socialisation. O’Neil 2011 says that socialisation creates our personality. We are able to function to our fullest because of socialisation says Barkan, 2011. People in adulthood are more influenced by their peer groups than their own parents according to McIntosh 2018. Through socialising, young people can meet new people, learn new things, be able to express their feelings to those close to them, potentially be invited out with their new friends. Youth workers can meet this need by holding daily or weekly sessions at a centre for young people to socialise with those around their age group. If someone is talking about something going on in the world, and someone does not know about it, it can cause a barrier to effective communication. Therefore, if youth workers informally educate young people about what is happening around the world, it can assist them in future conversations with others and help build a connection with new people.


Stayed safe is an important need in a young person’s life. Staying safe is what keeps them alive and keeps them happy. 40 percent of boys and half of young girls in the United Kingdom have experienced online bullying (Marsh, 2017). This is why it is highly important that youth workers teach young people how to deal with cyber bullying if it happens to them. To prevent young people from being cyber bullied you could show them how to block peoples telephone numbers or how to block people off social media websites such as, Facebook. By teaching them about e-safety (such as, setting social media accounts on high privacy settings and only talking to people you know in real life), this will give them strategies about how to protect themselves and make the right decisions. Young people need to be taught how to stay safe; it is important to work with them so that it gives them knowledge about what to do in situations when it comes to keeping themselves safe. The Working Together to Safeguard Children Act 2018 states that youth workers need to ensure that they safeguard children and young people at times to keep them safe. They can do this by having a child-centred approach, and working alongside the young people and their families. Youth workers must take the young persons views and thoughts on matters seriously. Youth workers can identify problems and concerns, share confidential information with their line manager if they are concerned for a child’s welfare (Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2018).

It is important as youth workers to provide young people with trustworthy relationships so that young people feel comfortable to discuss how they are feeling. Radford, L. et al (2011) says that 1 in 3 young people who have been sexually abused by an older person, keeps it to themselves for a period of time – they do not report what has happened to them straight away. By building strong/positive relationships with them, they will feel comfortable to share if something like this were to happen to them – so that the right support could be put in place. If someone does not know how to protect themselves and make decisions about their safety this can cause them to be vulnerable. Therefore, it is important to teach them how to say no if they are in an uncomfortable position (such as, if their boyfriend or girlfriend wanted to have sex with them but was not ready) so that they can protect themselves or teach them how to have safe sex by wearing a condom/going on contraception and as a result, they will have made a good decision for their own safety.


To summarise, I have presented what the needs of young people are and how they can be met by youth workers. I believe throughout my research within this essay, I have shown how much of an impact youth workers have on young people’s lives. Since my tutorial with my lecturer about ways to improve on this essay, I have reflected on this and made some changes. The changes I have made are by getting rid of subheadings and ensuring that my paragraphs flow and make sense. I have also ensured that I relate to the title of what is being asked of me to discuss, at all times. Finally, I have used more literature and referred to it.


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  • Bradford, S. (2000). Disciplining Practices: New Ways of Making Youth Workers Accountable. International Journal Of Adolescence And Youth, 9(1), 55. doi: 10.1080/02673843.2000.9747866
  • Frost, J. (2018). Why children need discipline. Retrieved from https://www.supernanny.co.uk/Advice/-/Parenting-Skills/-/Discipline-and-Reward/Why-children-need-discipline.aspx
  • Goldsmith Ph.D., B. (2010). Attention Seeking Behaviours – Protect yourself from the bad behaviours of others.. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-fitness/201005/attention-seeking-behaviors
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  • Long-Crowell, E. Agents of Socialization: Family, Schools, Peers and Media – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com. Retrieved from https://study.com/academy/lesson/agents-of-socialization-family-schools-peers-and-media.html
  • Marsh, S. (2017). Half of UK girls are bullied on social media, says survey. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/aug/14/half-uk-girls-bullied-social-media-survey
  • McIntosh, M. (2018). The Sociology of Socialization. Lumen Learning – Boundless Sociology. Retrieved from http://brewminate.com/the-sociology-of-socialization/
  • Nayler, C. (2010). What is Self-Esteem? 3 Theories on the Function of Self-Esteem. Retrieved from http://positivepsychology.org.uk/self-esteem-theory/
  • Nelsen, J., Lott, L., & Glenn, H. (2007). Positive discipline A-Z. New York: Three Rivers.
  • O’Neil, D. (2011). Process of Socialization: Socialization. Retrieved from https://www2.palomar.edu/anthro/social/soc_1.htm
  • Pringle, M. (1986). The needs of children. 3rd ed. Routledge, pp. 35, 42, 97 & 102.
  • Radford, L., Corral, S., Bradley, C., Fisher, H., Bassett, C., Howatt, N., & Collishaw, S. (2011). Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. NSPCC Learning. Retrieved from https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/research-resources/pre-2013/child-abuse-neglect-uk-today/
  • Wood, J., Westwood, S. and Thompson, G. (2015). Youth Work Preparation for Practice. Oxon: Routledge

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