School of Sociology and Social Policy

Timescapes: An ESRC Qualitative Longitudinal Initiative

Making the Long View: Sharing the inventing adulthoods project

The Inventing Adulthoods study produced unique longitudinal data about the lives of young people living in five locations in the UK. In the Timescapes study, we maximised the value of this data set by archiving further cases, extending our group of academic and non-academic users, and developing our method of analysis for longitudinal case histories.

The Inventing Adulthoods study has produced unique longitudinal data about the lives of young people living in five locations in the UK:

1800 young people participated in the first of the three projects making up the study. The young people were aged between 11 and 17 in 1996 at the outset of the research.

We used a range of methods to gather information. In two further projects, we followed 121 young people drawn from this sample. The principal research method employed here was individual biographical interviews, but focus groups, memory books, lifelines and questionnaires were also used.

The focus of the research has shifted from values, to adulthood, to social capital (socially supportive networks) across the component projects. However, a consistent concern has been to investigate how much people take control of their own lives and how the social and material environment in which young people grow up acts to shape the values and identities that they adopt.

Working with the complexity of the young people's accounts, we focused on the dynamic interplay between the individual, the resources they have access to and the structuring effects of time, locality, class, ethnicity and gender.

We explored creative ways of overcoming ethical and practical problems of representing, contextualising and providing access to the data. A showcase archive of ten cases is now available on the project website and we established a group of secondary users.

Thirty cases are now archived with the Timescapes Archive, and Qualidata: details on the London South Bank 'Inventing Adulthoods' Webpage.

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