Youth work has arisen in many different forms and it is therefore difficult to define youth work in its entirety. It would seem to be a phenomenon that has arisen in the industrial era and has generally involved interaction between adults and young people during the young people’s leisure time.
Most typically, but by no means exclusively, it has involved young people from working class communities whilst its various sponsors and founders have tended to include those in positions of influence. If many of those founders possessed quite conservative aims regarding what should be done to young people (Lord Shaftesbury in Montague 1904/1969), Lord Baden Powell (1908), Charles Russell (1905) the actual dynamic of youth work often produced something far less instrumental.
It is important to consider this dynamic because it, rather than the intentions of the founder or social policy maker, has been the crucial factor in distinguishing youth work.