Using empirical evidence from a study of rural youth living in a remote region in the West of Ireland, this paper applies a structurationist approach to focus on and explore how young people's scope for action and choice is shaped and mediated. In particular, it applies Giddens's concept of authoritative resources ('organization of life chances'), social practices and relations to understand the encounters, events and experiences within education, work and housing. The paper concerns how the types of practices and relations encountered within these three arenas tend to problematise the choices and opportunities available for young people. In the late-modern age, these three spheres of life can generate considerable pressures, which, depending on circumstances, are differentially mediated by young people. In conclusion, it calls for policy to engage in more 'enabling' terms with rural youth experiencing the negative effects of rural economic restructuring. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.