After spending evenings last year with young people in Cambridgeshire villages, the researchers concluded that such gatherings were "intimidating" to older adults but improved village harmony and gave the young a sense of identity.
"They are trapped in the villages," said Stephen Moore, the research project's leader. "Unlike teenagers in the towns these young people have nothing to do. They are lucky if they get a youth club once a week."
The study of "bus stop culture" found children aged 13 to 17 hung about because of poor public transport and services.
But a fragile harmony existed between the young and the old. "The teenagers feel intimidated by the rest of the community," said Mr Moore. "They feel highly visible, are aware of their lack of anonymity and are concerned that their parents may be told of any bad behaviour. As a result they tend to be much more conformist."
The impact of being labelled a troublemaker was seen to be greater there than in towns. Young people believed that negative labels would carry on from youth to adulthood.
For most of the young people "hanging about" was a normal way of passing "their youth" and most of them emerged at the other end as full community members.Reuse content