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The Young Lives Study: Researching Time and Processes of Change Bren Neale and Sarah Irwin Real Life Methods node of the National Centre for Research Methods,

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Presentation on theme: "The Young Lives Study: Researching Time and Processes of Change Bren Neale and Sarah Irwin Real Life Methods node of the National Centre for Research Methods,"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Young Lives Study: Researching Time and Processes of Change Bren Neale and Sarah Irwin Real Life Methods node of the National Centre for Research Methods, University of Leeds.


3 Young Lives and Times QLL Study: Substantive questions How do young people craft their personal relationships and identities over time? What is the relative significance of family/peer group/school and community in their daily lives and how does this change through their teenage years? What values (e.g. those surrounding friendship, partnering, parenting, sex, marriage and kinship) do young people draw upon in crafting their relationships? What are the sources of their morality? What opportunities and constraints exist in young peoples lives and how far is the notion of life planning applicable to them? How do diverse aspirations and subjective experiences relate to standard dimensions of social difference and inequality?

4 Key Method: Prospective QL.L panel study Prospective, qualitative longitudinal study, walking alongside a stratified sample of young people from a northern metropolitan district Birth cohort of up to 50 young people followed over a decade, starting at transition to teens (13+) Recruitment: via schools and community groups in contrasting socio-economic communities, from disadvantaged to advantaged, from inner city to rural. Sample boosting for particular groups, eg. via Connexions service and Sure Start. Participative strategy, devising flexible methods in consultation with young people Young peoples advisory panel Array of ethnographic methods: Focus groups; participant observation, writing (diaries, collages, self portraits, interactive website, mobile phones); visual mapping and chronicles (e.g. time lines, photographic and video diaries); data generation structured around regular waves of in depth, conversational interviews at 18 month intervals. Generating a rich cultural inventory of young lives

5 Conceptual Rationale: Researching Time and Change Dynamic/Processual turn in social scientific enquiry: recognition of rapid social change within contemporary society, including significant demographic changes and changes in patterns of marriage, family and kinship Using time as a medium for exploring the relationship between agency and structure, the micro/ macro dimensions of society. Use of QL methods to link biography and history as lives unfold, creating congruence between theory and method.

6 Re-thinking time in the Sociology of Childhood Childhood Being: Childrens subjective experiences, perspectives, agency, narratives as key to understanding the here and now of childrens daily lives Childhood Becoming: importance of childrens histories and biographies in understanding how their lives unfold. Being and Becoming

7 Young Lives study: Conceptual lens Biographical Time: across the life course dynamics of agency/intricacies of causality Generational Time across generations, shifting intergenerational structures of family and kinship Historical Time Across external events and structural conditions shifting public norms and expectations, structural opportunities and constraints

8 Young lives: conceptual questions What is the salience of time in young peoples daily lives? How is biographical, generational and historical time experienced and how do these Timescapes intersect as young lives unfold? How do young people make sense of their past, present and future with regard to their relationships and identities? How do they refine their ideas at different turning points in their adolescence as they overwrite their biographies What key events or critical moments (biographical, intergenerational and historical) are significant for young people and what impact do they have on their life decisions and chances? [e.g transition to high school, becoming a teenager] How do young people define the causal links between their earlier and later selves and their changing life experiences? How might young people from different walks of life offer diverse perspectives?

9 Building context through multi-dimensional methods 1. Qualitative longitudinal panel study 2. Young Lives Survey 3. Links to DfES Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England, start 2004, tracking Year 9 students (n=15000) through the education system and gathering data on family/ peer group; Interative strategy of linking longitudinal data across the two studies and enriching insights over time. links to other national level data sets, e.g BHPS youth panel, gathering data on young people aged 12+.

10 The Young Lives Survey Young Lives Survey of Year 9 students (n=1000) across Leeds and district. It focuses on: a. school lives (attitudes to school, perceptions and motivations); b. (educational attainment); c. friendships; d. family life; e. expectations and plans for the future; f. attitudes to social inequalities. The survey will explore a range of issues including (reported) social interactions, and social location. The latter can be indexed by standard indices of gender, parental occupations/class, ethnicity etc but we will also examine aspects of the networks in which young people are embedded, and evidence on how they locate themselves.

11 E.g. Friendships. Questions seek to elaborate not just what friends are and who respondents talk to in times of need (and how) but also range of questions seek to tap how respondents see themselves (e.g. perceived similarity and difference to friends, and perceived positioning of friends relative to others Family Much qualitative research emphasises importance of cultural capital and educational ethos/ expectations at home for understanding diverse trajectories. YL survey will generate more detailed evidence on family support (or its absence) and expectations than is common in youth survey research.

12 Rationales for Young Lives Survey 1. Provides descriptive context for qualitative study, and will help understand positioning and circumstances of the QLL sample members; 2. Facilitates bridging to national level evidence; including the DfES Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England, start 2004, tracking Year 9 students (n=15000). 3. Generates new insights into the mutual patterning of school lives, friendship patterns, family lives, their links to social advantage and disadvantage, gender and ethnicity, and their links to expectations and plans, (and attainment), and social attitudes.

13 Researching social context Qualitative research generates concerns about adequate knowledge of specificity (how well does it locate the contexts of action and belief as they are part of the wider social structure?). Quantitative research generates concerns about adequate specification of diversity (how well does it capture the nature of the contexts which shape action and belief?) Recent convergence of interest on researching context. This is an important component in connecting micro and macro. It is not simply an intermediate, meso layer. Context is about the proximate conditions of action and belief and it is about social location – how proximate conditions relate to wider structures (norms; inequalities etc).

14 Researching social context….. Critical accounts of variable led analyses of survey data argue that it flattens out contexts. A parallel and linked problem here is a tendency to reification of standard variables as adequate indices of difference (e.g. gender, ethnicity, class). An aim of our research is to generate insights about contexts, as these are salient to respondents, and which help us locate respondents (e.g. illuminate sameness and difference in cultural norms / frames of reference as they relate to diverse circumstances).

15 Young Lives and Times October Project Team Dr Bren Neale, Dr. Anna Bagnoli, Dr. Sarah Irwin With Jon Prosser, Aisha Walker, Jennifer Mason and Inge Bates Contacts

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