Changing Lives and Times

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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, University of Leeds.
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

   What opportunities and constraints exist in young people’s 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?
Key Method:
Prospective QL.L panel study
   Prospective, qualitative longitudinal study, ‘walking alongside’ a
    stratified sample of young people from a northern metropolitan
   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 people’s 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
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.
Re-thinking time
in the Sociology of Childhood

   Childhood Being: Children’s subjective
    experiences, perspectives, agency,
    narratives as key to understanding the
    ‘here and now’ of children’s daily lives

   Childhood Becoming: importance of
    children’s histories and biographies in
    understanding how their lives unfold.

   Being and Becoming
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

   Historical Time
       Across external events and structural conditions
       shifting public norms and expectations, structural
        opportunities and constraints
Young lives: conceptual questions
   What is the salience of time in young people’s 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?
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+.
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
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.
 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.
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

 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.
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).
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).
Young Lives and Times October 2005 -
Project Team

   Dr Bren Neale, Dr. Anna Bagnoli, Dr. Sarah Irwin
   With Jon Prosser, Aisha Walker, Jennifer Mason
    and Inge Bates

   Contacts