A social definition of young people in care

PhD thesis

Cowell, D. 1993. A social definition of young people in care. PhD thesis Middlesex University Health and Education
TypePhD thesis
TitleA social definition of young people in care
AuthorsCowell, D.

The research study described by this thesis was designed to identify the process whereby young people in local authority residential 'care' come to be socially defined and to analyse the nature and validity of this definition and its effect on their employment prospects. It is an undertaking which entails a critical reading into the territories in and between several of the social sciences (e.g. sociology, social administration, social policy, social psychology, applied social studies and economics) to identify the interlocking themes which combine to form the social definition of these young people which casts them as an undeserving group set apart from their 'non-care' peers. To test the validity of this definition matched samples of young people in, and not in 'care' from two London Boroughs were followed through their first year on the labour market. In this period they were interviewed on three occasions. An essentially qualitative approach was taken towards this task, using as the main source of material respondents' subjective reports to identify their personal problems, histories of offending, hopes and aspirations for the future, family relationships, school performance, assiduousness of job search and rates of unemployment. In so doing the study compensated for the lack of a similar comparative analysis in the literature and demonstrated that, contrary to the social definition of young people in 'care', they and their 'non-care' counterparts were much alike. Yet, interviews also held with 'care' respondents' teachers, prospective employers and members of the public revealed that nearly all of them clung to the distorted and exaggerated stereotype of these young people produced by the stigmatic social definition of them. The study attributes this to a profound historical process which stigmatizes all who are dependent on the largess of society. It is a process so deeply rooted that policies directed at changing the way in which they are defined are not likely to succeed. However the study concludes by making a series of recommendations intended to help young people in 'care' overcome the effects of this definition. In doing so it goes beyond providing a long-overdue analysis of the underlying social and historical forces which influence events and moves on to begin to provide solutions, based on analysis of the study's findings, to the problems these young people confront as a result of the social definition imposed on them.

Department nameHealth and Education
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print30 Apr 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited30 Apr 2013
CompletedAug 1993
Output statusPublished
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