Rural communities and well-being: a good place to grow up?

Anthony Glendinning, Mark Nuttall, Leo Hendry, Marion Kloep, Sheila Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)


This study looks at young, people's accounts of life in communities in rural northern Scotland, and considers in what ways affective. and social aspects of community are bound up with well-being, over and above young people's concerns for the future, rural youth transitions, and out-migration. Interviews were held with 15-18 year-olds in four study areas (16 groups, N = 60+) and a parallel survey of 11-16 year-olds was conducted in eight study areas (N = -2400+). Themes to emerge from the interviews included: opportunities locally, the future and staying on, as well as local amenities and services; but older teenagers also spoke at length about their social lives, family and social networks, and their community, both as close-knit and caring and,as intrusive and controlling. Rural communities were seen as good places in childhood, but not necessarily for young people. In parallel with that, the survey data paints a picture where feelings of support, control, autonomy, and attachment were all associated with emotional well-being. Importantly, links between emotional well-being and practical, material concerns, were outweighed by positive identifications of community as close-knit and caring; and equally, by negative identifications as intrusive and constraining, where the latter was felt more strongly by young women. Certainly, beliefs about future employment and educational opportunities were also linked to well-being, but that was over and above, and independently of, affective and social aspects of community life. Additionally, migration intentions were also bound up with sense of self and well-being, and with feelings about community life; and links between thoughts-about leaving and community life as controlling and constraining were, yet again, felt more strongly by young women. Thus, gender was a key dimension. affecting young people's feelings about their communities with significant implications for well-being, and out and out-migration. The study illustrates the importance of understanding the experiences young people have of growing up in rural areas, and how they. evaluate those experiences: particularly, how life in rural communities matters for young people's well-being; and especially, for young women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-156
Number of pages27
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2003


  • migration
  • adolescents
  • Scotland
  • England
  • youth
  • idyll
  • life


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