An exploratory qualitative study of young, black men's involvement in "train-surfing".
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Train-Surfing is a high-risk phenomenon that has in recent years, become a trend affecting black male youths in South Africa. This study aimed at examining the motives behind the phenomenon. It also aimed at exploring the role that train-surfing plays in constructing a black, South African, masculine identity and what it means to be a train-surfer. A broader aim of the study was to explore the constructions of masculinity and their influence on high-risk behaviours in men. The reason for the choice of topic was that although train-surfing is not a recent phenomenon it appears to be a growing phenomenon in South Africa. Scientific publications are limited thus far with regard to international and local literature on this issue. This exploratory study used the social constructionist theory as a theoretical framework and presents qualitative research findings based on in-depth interviews of six juvenile train-surfers who reside in Soweto, Gauteng. Thematic Content Analysis was used to analyse the data. The study found that train-surfers tend to show evidence of family discord and are inclined to rely on support from their train-surfing peers. All of the participants lacked a substantial father figure, however many of them showed evidence of consistent support from mother figures. Reasons for participation in train-surfing include impressing young females, a desire for status and fame and peer pressure. Some participants perceived the activity as a sport or hobby, whilst others used symbols of addiction in describing the phenomenon. It was also found that the train-surfing participants used train-surfing as a means to define their identity as young, black males living in South Africa. Train-surfing was found to be associated with other high-risk activities such as taking drugs, drinking alcohol and gang-related behaviours. These findings are important as they highlight the role of high-risk behaviour in adolescents and uncover much needed research regarding men and masculinities in South Africa.