Pulling together, pulling apart: the family lives of young people aged 16-18

Gillies, Val; Ribbens McCarthy, Jane and Holland, Janet (2001). Pulling together, pulling apart: the family lives of young people aged 16-18. London, UK: Family Policy Studies Centre / Joseph Rowntree Foundation.


In this study ‘ordinary’ young people (aged between 16 and 18) and their parents talk about their lives on their own terms. In-depth interviews explore issues of independence and relatedness, understandings of parental support and the meaning of ‘family’. They reveal how independence may mean different things to parents and young people; how parental control and authority can conflict with young people’s growing independence; and how there can be a very delicate balance between openness, guidance, secrecy and surveillance.

In contrast to the problem-centred approach of much previous research, the study found that the vast majority of the sample described their family relationships in positive terms. Parents described how relationships with their children improved over the teenage years, becoming more based on companionship; young people emphasised personal responsibility and individual accountability. The researchers conclude that policies should build constructively on parental concerns to guide and advise their children, while being ready to rectify inequalities and fill absences around this vital resource for young people.

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