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Assessing outcomes : a social psychological interpretation of life course trajectories for young people leaving care

Horrocks, Christine (1999) Assessing outcomes : a social psychological interpretation of life course trajectories for young people leaving care. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

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    This study explores the experiences of young people who have been 'looked after' during the
    transitional period in which they leave 'care', moving on to live independently. The emphasis is on
    making visible the way in which young people are active in their lives; interacting with, rather than
    submitting to the social environment they operate within. Drawing upon life course theory
    (Elder,1997) taking an interactional biographical approach (Runyan, 1982); historical time and place
    are considered, particularly in relation to the social timing of life events. Of paramount importance is
    the notion of 'linked lives' where developmental pathways and life course trajectories are seen to be
    located within past transitions.

    Drawing upon feminist empiricist and feminist postmodernist thinking, a multi-methods approach to
    data collection is used. Initially, aggregate data for the 150 young people, eligible to receive leaving
    care services within the Local Authority, was made available for analysis. Structured interviews with 38
    young people were completed. Fourteen young people, aged 16-18 when the research
    commenced, were included in the biographical phase of the research. In this phase, in-depth
    information about their unique life experiences was documented over a period of 12-18 months. It
    was found, in line with previous research, that care leavers experienced a much earlier transition to
    independent living, continual accommodation moves and high levels of unemployment (60-70%).
    The Leaving Care Scheme's risk assessment showed the largest proportion of young people
    categorised as 'high risk (44%). However, leaving care provision was not accessed by 35% of those
    young people eligible to receive services.

    The 'stories' told in depth reveal the way in which past experiences and past transitions can be seen to
    shape and direct life course trajectories; progressing the view that outcome evaluation is limited in
    utility when not viewed as part of an integrated whole. An ideological account of independence had
    consequentiality in terms of 'social timing' also operating as a barrier which distanced young people
    from leaving care services. There is considerable evidence in the research of young people as active
    agents. Such 'agency was always located within personal and situational contexts where differing
    levels of personaVinterpersonal action and compliance can be observed.

    The findings suggest that outcome evaluations are of limited use, and a focus on studies which
    accommodate life as a continuum, a series of 'linked states' where beginnings and endings are not so
    clearly defined would offer more informative representations of young people's 'post-care' lives.
    Leaving care policy makers and practitioners should reflect upon the consequentiality of the ideology
    with which they engage; aiming to foster more comprehensively a favourable social environment but
    one where young people are not seen exclusively as submitting to social conditions.

    Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
    Additional Information: EThOS Persistent ID
    Uncontrolled Keywords: Services, Psychology, Sociology, Human services
    Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
    B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
    Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
    Depositing User: Graham Stone
    Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2009 16:49
    Last Modified: 28 Jul 2010 19:39


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