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Unfolding livesYouth, gender and change$
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Rachel Thomson

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9781847420510

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781847420510.001.0001

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The breadth and depth of youth transitions

The breadth and depth of youth transitions

(p.1) One The breadth and depth of youth transitions
Unfolding lives

Rachel Thomson

Policy Press

In 1996, with a group of colleagues, the author began a ten-year longitudinal study by following the transition of young people to adulthood. The research began in secondary schools in five contrasting areas in the UK, reflecting the different environments and opportunities that shape young people's destinies. The first set of interviews took place when the respondents were aged between eleven and sixteen, and the last interview was conducted in 2006, when the respondents were all in their twenties. The Inventing Adulthoods study generated a unique record of the lives and times of a generation of young people who came of age at the turn of the millennium. They belong to a generation shaped by the explosion in new communications technologies, the expansion of higher education, and the extension of youth from the teens through the twenties. Yet, these young people also constitute a less socially mobile generation than the former generation, for whom old forms of inequalities are remade in new kinds of ways. And while many of them speak in a ‘can do’ language, in practice many struggle to achieve the forms of autonomy, integrity, and independence traditionally associated with adulthood in the West. This book provides life stories that are emblematic of the kinds of situations which young people find and make, and the responses and pathways that are available to them. It shows how a singular life is forged from a range of possible destinies. The book is an exercise in story telling, of attending to the detail of life as lived, problems faced, and legacies realised and escaped. It narrates stories of people, yet these are also stories of places, and of a wider culture and an era. The book is furthermore about methods and the way in which researching lives as they unfold reveals temporal processes.

Keywords:   longitudinal study, young people, adulthood, young people's destinies, Inventing Adulthoods, autonomy, integrity, independence, researching lives

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