This study followed an age cohort of young people to explore the unfolding of their personal and family relationships over time, and their changing educational aspirations and achievements. We aimed to shed light on how young people practice and ‘work out’ their personal relationships and identities at a time of intense change through their teenage years, and in relation to their values and aspirations for the future. There is evidence to suggest that the life chances of young people – their ability to achieve stable relationships in adult life, and to achieve well educationally – are causally linked to their earlier family experiences. However, longitudinal data that can shed light on how these influences operate are limited. We aimed to investigate these patterns and processes through a broadly constructed sample of young people, and more intensively through a subsample of young people entering early parenthood.
Research Design and Methodology
Young Lives and Times was conducted from 2010-12 under Timescapes, a follow up of an earlier ESRC funded phase of the project (2006-9). The main sample of 29 young people was recruited in 2006 via focus groups held in schools and youth clubs. The young people were aged 13-14 at the outset, and lived in varied neighbourhoods in an industrial city in the north of England. Three waves of fieldwork were conducted over a four year period (2006-7, 2008, 2010). In-depth interviews were complemented with a palette of ethnographic methods, including visual and diagrammatic methods, and data generated directly by the young people. Interactive public exhibitions and workshops were also held with the young people.
For the subsample of young parents, we worked closely with local authority practitioners during 2010 to design the research and to recruit 12 young fathers into the study. They were tracked over three waves of interviews during 2011-2, to investigate changes in their lives following entry to parenthood, how their varied needs – for parenting support, education, housing and childcare – were being met over time, and to what extent they were supported by family and/or the state. Funding has been secured for a three year project to build on these findings and expand the scope of this research as part of the Following Young Fathers project.
Data from the project were analysed longitudinally, and in relation to data from other Timesapes datasets and Quantitative Longitudinal datasets. The rich data from the study have been archived with Timescapes for sharing and re-use.