Transitions and Mobilities: Girls growing up in Britain 1954-76 and the implications for later-life experience and identity.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Social Sciences

Abstract

This study addresses women born 1939-52 who became young adults in Britain 1954-76. The youth of this generation of women has immense historical and current significance but there has been no detailed study of it and its implications. Recent studies suggest young women were in the vanguard of postwar social change. They are now part of the largest group of over 60s in British history with unprecedented influence and are widely seen to be ageing differently from their predecessors partly due to their youth experiences.
This study investigates the key youth events and transitions to adulthood 1954-76 of girls born 1939-52, and the implications for their later-life experience and identity. It will provide the first sustained analysis of the diversity of young women's lives in postwar Britain. It will look initially at the period 1954-76 when these girls were 15-24 years and include working- and middle-class girls from rural and urban areas. Comparing 2 cohorts who reached maturity 1954-76 (war babies born 1939-45, baby boomers born 1946-52) it will explore the relationship between personal life and social change informing debate about the role of baby boomers as agents of change. Spatial mobility is a neglected aspect of youth experience and social diversity 1954-76 that has long-term import. It includes: travel for work, study and leisure; leaving home; residential mobility; independent travel. This study will be the first to trace and theorize its resonance across the lifecourse. This is part of our broader aim of exploring the relationship between youth and later-life.
The research employs 4 quantitative and qualitative methods. 1) Documentary research (eg youth organisation archives, newspapers, film) to provide contemporary evidence of youth and to contextualise and inform methods 2 and 4. 2) Secondary analysis of longitudinal surveys to: identify the occurrence and timing of youth events, transitions and related mobilities 1954-76 for war babies and baby boomers; explore relationships between youth and later-life experiences for both cohorts. The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) is the backbone of this part. It was launched in 2002 to generate data about the lifecourses and ageing of people born pre-1954 in England; it includes retrospectively-collected data about youth 1954-76 and prospectively-collected data on later life. We will also use the MRC National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD) which has followed through to the present a sample of children born in Britain in 1946; this includes girls from Wales, Scotland and England and enables comparisons between prospectively and retrospectively collected data on youth transitions and mobility histories. 3) Qualitative study of the records of a sample of 80 ELSA and 30 NSHD participants to holistically assess youth experiences and lifecourse trajectories. 4) Two interviews using new elicitation methods with each of the 80 ELSA participants to probe: relationships in the survey data; the personal meaning and import of youth events, transitions and related mobilities; links between youth experiences and later-life experience and identity.
The research is timely. This generation of women are redefining ageing; our research will help policymakers and providers understand and respond to these women's needs and motivations in later life and how they are shaped by their youth. It will inform assessments of changes currently affecting youth that have been erroneously built on assumptions about postwar youth transitions. The research is pressing because there is a rapidly contracting window within which to do interviews with women born 1939-52. ELSA and NSHD provide an unrivalled opportunity to study postwar youth experience and explore its relationship to ageing, but qualitative interviews are needed to interpret these data. The researchers have expertise in quantitative lifecourse research using ELSA and NSHD and in qualitative and historical research.

Planned Impact

There are 2 main groups of non-academic beneficiaries; both have been consulted about the research design. First, organisations and individuals interested in postwar British history - public history providers, educators and their students, the media, amateur historians and the interested general public. Second, those who work with, or for, women in their 60s and 70s - policy makers, service providers, analysts and older people. We will maximise impact potential by: engaging in knowledge transfer with stakeholders throughout the research via the Project Consultancy Group; creating a permanent project website; utilising the expertise and extensive networks of the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA); producing 3 resources - a Multi-Media History Resource, a Longitudinal Survey Training Resource and a Reminiscence Resource. Additionally, by training 3 researchers in specialist research and knowledge exchange skills, the project includes capacity building that will benefit a range of potential future users.

A key outcome of this research will be the first detailed history of a pivotal generation of young women in late modern Britain, one that illuminates how they transitioned and literally moved from childhood to adulthood and how they contributed to societal change in this period. A multi-purpose Multi-Media History Resource will be a primary means of achieving impact. Beneficiaries consulted about its design include the Geffrye Museum of the Home, Women's Library at the LSE, Glasgow Women's Library and Digital Women's Archive North (DWAN); DWAN will work with us to develop the resource. Museums, libraries and archives will be able to use the resource in exhibitions and outreach work, informing and framing their own materials. The Multi-Media Resource is designed to address a gap in the National Curriculum (objective KS3) and will meet the needs of school teachers and their pupils. Youth workers will gain a tool for promoting intergenerational dialogue; DWAN will develop and subsequently use the resource in project work with girls. Lecturers and students will benefit from the new knowledge we generate as it engages with undergraduate history and sociology syllabi. The research will also benefit producers of specialist media for older people (eg Age-Net) and of radio and TV programmes (eg Woman's Hour) that cover historical topics. The project impact extends to amateur historians and historical researchers working outside HE.

Another key outcome relates to the needs of older women in contemporary Britain. The project will provide an evidence base about how women's experiences and identities in later life have been influenced by growing up 1954-76. This new knowledge will enable policy makers at national and local levels, also 3rd sector providers, to better understand and respond to older women's needs and motivations thereby fostering healthy ageing. The Longitudinal Survey Training Resource will enhance the research practice of analysts of 2 important national data sets that are used to inform policy recommendations about ageing - the National Survey of Health and Development and the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing. Survey users include the Department of Health, Age UK and the Centre for Policy and Ageing. The project's Reminiscence Resource will open up new possibilities for memory work and the promotion of wellbeing. This resource, co-developed with Age UK North West and Manchester City Council's Age-friendly Manchester programme, can be used by older members of the general public and by 3rd sector organisations and local authorities that work with them. The resource also delivers cultural benefits to these and other users, eg University of the Third Age, by facilitating the personal development of older people and community initiatives to raise their profile and status. Our research will inform public debate about the impact of baby boomers on society and the lives of young people.

Publications

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Title Biographical mapping 
Description The Biograpical Map toolkit is a creative visual and audio resource to help people make Biographical Maps. The Biographical map is symbolised by a homing pigeon. The toolkit consists of a how-to video and a set of illustrations that people can download and print to create their own Biographical Maps. Biographical Mapping toolkit has been created for the project by Claire Stringer of More than Minutes. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Too early to say 
URL https://sites.manchester.ac.uk/girlhood-and-later-life/biographical-mapping/
 
Title Exploring GIrlhood Exhibition - Girlhood and Later Life Creative Consultancy project by Digital Women's Archive North [DWAN] 
Description An exchibition of artwork created by artists invited to respond to the project's interview data through workshops designed and hosted by DWAN 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact The artists entered into dialogue with the project materials producing reflections on it and its relationship to their own experiences. Their interaction wit the project data have created a new layer of insights into girls growing up. All the women expressed their aim to evolve the work started in the project, both in the UK and in connection to their birth countries. The Workshop Facilitator Toolkit 
URL https://jcashton.com/girlhood
 
Title Teenage Kicks: Girls growing up in Britain 1956-1974 
Description Teenage Kicks: Girls growing up in Britain 1956-1974 - Illustrated stories showing the lives of young women growing up in different families in Britain, based on our research. Illustrations by Candice Purwin 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact The artwork has formed part of two very recent online exhibitions (detailed under Engagement) and we are still evaluating the impacts. 
URL https://sites.manchester.ac.uk/girlhood-and-later-life/teenage-kicks/
 
Description Main findings
The project had 2 stages: the first stage (2017-19) focused on quantitative analysis, the second stage (2018-2021) on qualitative research and on combining quantitative and qualitative analyses. The project funding has ended but the analysis and write up of findings from the second stage are ongoing.
Findings relating to the first stage of research
1. The implications of youth 1954-76 for later-life experience and identities - Objective 4
Transitions to adulthood are thought to represent a sensitive period for setting young people into particular life course trajectories. However, there is little quantitative evidence on how girls' varied exits from full-time education influence their later life socioeconomic attainment. Our study uses sequence analysis to characterise adolescent transitions out of full-time education and their association with socioeconomic attainment in later life in a national sample of English women drawn from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Our study found three key links between adolescent transitions and later socioeconomic attainment. First, later transitions into employment were associated with a higher likelihood of higher socioeconomic attainment after age 50 compared with women who made early transitions from full-time education to full-time employment. For individual measures of attainment (individual income and occupational class), this advantage was largely due to higher educational attainment. Household measures of attainment (household income and wealth) were only partly explained by education. Second, with the exception of occupational class, an early transition to full-time domestic work set young women onto trajectories of lower likelihood of financial attainment than those who made early transitions to paid work. Household financial disadvantage amongst women in this group was explained by parity and homophily in partner's attainment, while disadvantage in individual income was mainly explained by fewer subsequent years in employment. Third, those with transitions characterised by higher levels of part-time employment were less likely to reach higher levels of household financial attainment, and again, this disadvantage was explained by parity and partner's attainment. In conclusion, we demonstrate that inequality in transitions out of full-time education cast a long shadow for the generation of women who are currently reaching later life. The timing of exits is key, particularly in relation to the qualifications attained, but the nature of transitions in relation to a constellation of employment and family factors at this time of life also set women onto trajectories of later financial advantage or disadvantage.
2. The implications of youth 1954-76 for later-life experience and identities - Objective 4
Using data from women in Wave 3 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, this study found that women who made early transitions to married parenthood and full-time domestic labour had lower levels of life satisfaction and quality of life, and a higher level of depressive symptoms, compared to women who made later transitions to family life and remained employed. Women who remained single up to age 26 also had lower life satisfaction and quality of life in later life than their counterparts who married and had children. These associations were explained by the life-course socioeconomic and relationship pathways.
Findings related to the second stage of research
3. The ways in which spatial mobility was an aspect of being a teenager and becoming an adult 1954-76 - Objective 2.
Extensive documentary and archival research were undertaken to investigate youth spatial mobilities in the 1950s-1970s as essential context for understanding girls' actual and aspirational mobilities 1956-74. The research revealed that during this period spatial mobilities achieved heightened cultural significance and became integral to a redefinition of young femininity. Media popularised the idea that teenage girls and young women were on the move and that particular kinds of mobility were a feature of modern girlhood. Mobilities were often portrayed as empowering girls and facilitating transitions to adulthood; for these reasons, girls were encouraged to embrace opportunities to be going places, even if this meant challenging personal boundaries. This empowering new ideal was also portrayed as costly: youth, and the passage to adulthood, became riskier for girls. There were long-established dangers posed by predatory men, but also new ones, namely loneliness and sexual and domestic exploitation. Financial resources were presented as safeguarding girls, but survival increasingly depended on personal resources. Mobilities became established in cultural discourse as a new axis of social differentiation. They divided the girls who were going places and able to enhance their social status and cultural capital in doing so, from those who were immobile or mobile but unable to manage the consequences.
4. The implications of youth 1954-76 for later-life experience and identities: Objective 4
Based on interview research, this study developed 'resonance' as a means of conceptualising and revisioning the relationship between youth and later life for women born 1939-52. 'Resonance' cross-cuts, but complements, longitudinal approaches to the lifecourse. Resonance is how one's 'youth' is lived with in the present of later life, ie how aspects of youth seemingly create ripples across biographical and historical time that are reconstructed, animated, experienced, felt, interpreted, imagined and mobilised in the present. The concept takes later life as the starting point - the vantage point from which youth is experienced (not youth per se) - and embraces meanings, feelings, assessments, identifications, imaginings, that is the subjective and affective, not simply the external, objective markers of long-term effects and processes. Resonance embraces the construction and narrativization of memory and the multiple ways that traces of past experiences are reconstituted in meaningful ways in contemporary life. Resonance does not include the objective identification of youth events/transitions and their association with later-life outcomes, but it does include personal accounts of the meaning and possible significance of these in later life; in this way it complements the findings from our quantitative analysis of the relationship between youth and later life. 'Resonance' is mobilised in the ongoing analysis of interview data generated in this study and in the analysis of data generated from mixed-methods.
5. The implications of youth 1954-76 for later-life experience and identities. Objective 4
Narratives of unwanted sexual attention during youth from boys and men featured in roughly a third of the interviews with women in this study. Advancing understanding of the implications of youth experiences for later-life, the study reveals how changing discourses around sexual abuse, harassment and assault are navigated by women in later life when they recount experiences from their youth. The study identifies six sites of youth that are relevant to understanding how women narrate experiences of sexual violence that occurred in the mid-1950s to mid-1970s: home; school; local outdoor places; workplaces; heterosexual intimacies; independent travel. These sites are associated with different points on a 'girl to woman' register, tracing a pathway from the immaturity and innocence of girlhood, through the liminal state of young womanhood, and into mature womanhood. How interviewees positioned themselves on this register is suggestive of how they understood their youthful selves in different sites, and how within these sites they understood their past experiences of unwanted sexual attentions. The study demonstrates that what is at stake for the women in how they navigate shifting cultural discourses is narrating a version of themselves that is morally responsible and agentic.
6. Advance methodologies. Objective 6. (The methods are expanded on under 'New tools or methods'.)
(i) Developed method - 'Recomposition of persons' - for the qualitative re-study of the National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD) and the archives of other birth cohort studies.
(ii) Developed method - 'Biographical Mapping'. This is an innovative elicitation method to explore spatial mobilities in biographical and historical contexts, and more broadly in biographical research, to decentre interviewees' conventional narratives about life stages and the lifecourse.
Exploitation Route Too early to say. Our ongoing research will complement these findings.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

 
Title Biographical Mapping 
Description Biographical Mapping (BM) is an innovative elicitation method. It uses a combination of pictures and texts to represent past experiences as a tool for reflection and talk. BM differs from established biographical methods in that it foregrounds meaningful places and mobilities in a person's life, rather than chronology and the tracing of change. The significance of BM's approach is that it allows the researcher to approach the biographies of interviewees from a different perspective, and in doing this to decentre their conventional, including rehearsed, narratives of the past. The method also provides a new way to research spatial mobilities in biographical and historical contexts, as it differs from established methods which rely mainly on a linear representation of time. BM typically renders movement and meaning more visible than in linear-based mobility methods, with implications for how the graphics work as a tool for stimulating memory and prompting accounts. Biographical mapping was developed and employed in our study and has subsequently been developed as a method for use in other academic research as well as in non-academic contexts. The method can be less daunting for some people than an invitation to construct a chronological account of past experiences and this makes it useful in a range of contexts. A 'Biographical Mapping' website including a video, guide and toolkit has been created to facilitate the use of the method. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Too early to comment on impact beyond our study. 
URL https://sites.manchester.ac.uk/girlhood-and-later-life/biographical-mapping/
 
Title Recomposition of persons 
Description Recomposition is a new method for qualitative re-study of the National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD) and the archives of other birth cohort studies. Qualitative research was undertaken of the records of a stratified sample of participants in the National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD), following the sample from their birth in 1946 into later life. The research involved developing a new approach to the qualitative restudy of this ongoing survey, one that allowed us to go beyond its original parameters (to generate population-level quantitative data) and to recompose persons. Recomposition requires not only a shift from quantitative to qualitative methods, but a shift also in how data and persons are understood. Recomposition entails scavenging for various (including unrecognised) data. It foregrounds the perspective and subjectivity of survey participants, but without forgetting the partiality and incompleteness of the accounts that it may generate. Although interested in the singularity of individuals, it attends to the historical and relational embeddedness of personhood. It examines the multiple and complex temporalities that suffuse people's lives, hence departing from linear notions of the life course. It implies involvement, as well as reflexivity, on the part of researchers. It embraces the heterogeneity and transformations over time of scientific archives and the interpretive possibilities, as well as incompleteness, of birth cohort studies data. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Too early to comment on impact beyond our study. 
 
Title Transitions and Mobilities: Interview transcripts 
Description Set of interview transcripts from Transitions and Mobilities project have been deposited with UK Data Service (August 2021). The data set consists of two linked interviews - one on youth and the second on the relationship betwen youth and later life - undertaken with each of 69 women. There is a temporary embargo on the data. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The data set is under a temporary embargo 
 
Description ESRC Festival of Social Science, 7-15 November 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Exhibition - Teenage Kicks: Girls growing up in Britain 1956-1974 - Illustrated stories showing the lives of young women growing up in different families in Britain, based on our research. Illustrations by Candice Purwin

The Festival of Science was online in 2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://www.esrcmanchesterfest.ac.uk/
 
Description Festival of Tomorrow (Science Swindon) 18-20 February 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Online exhibition - Teenage Kicks: Girls growing up in Britain 1956-1974 - Illustrated stories showing the lives of young women growing up in different families in Britain, based on our research. Illustrations by Candice Purwin.
Increased visits to our website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.scienceswindon.com/festival-of-tomorrow
 
Description Girlhood and Later Life project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The permanent project website was established in 2019, but is continuing to evolve as new materials, and responses to project outputs (creative and academic), emerge. The website includes: a 'Then and Now' blog in which women in their seventies, who grew up in Britain (even if they now live overseas), reflect on their girlhood expectations and on what advice they would give their younger selves; the Biographical Mapping toolkit and guide; the 'Teenage Kicks exhibition' that was created using insights from interviewing women born 1939-52 for this study; creative engagements with the study's interview data produced by women born 1962-1988 who grew up outside the UK; academic outputs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://sites.manchester.ac.uk/girlhood-and-later-life/
 
Description NSHD birth cohort study's 75th birthday celebrations in March 2021: an online presentation about the project's work with the archive 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Audience questions and comments revealed interest in learning more about the project and our website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Project Consultancy Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Project Consultancy Group (PCG) steered the 'Transitions' research project and included representatives from stakeholder groups: public history service providers - Glasgow Women's Library, Digital Women's Archive North, Geffrye Museum; policy-making bodies (Manchester City Council's Age friendly Manchester programme); analysts - NSHD, ELSA; older people locally and nationally, including a representative of University of the Third Age; a representative from the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA). We had two PCG meetings; the third and final one was scheduled for the end of the project in 2020 but was cancelled due to the National Lockdown. At meeting 1 we explored ideas for how to progress the research and build productive links between PCG members. The 2nd meeting in March 2019 involved working with stake holders in the first stage of developing a Reminiscence Resource for public use, particularly by/with older people. The 2nd meeting confirmed the value of the resource and we received valuable feedback on its development. At this meeting we planned further initiatives to refine and pilot the resource. We subsequently developed the reminiscence resource - Biographical Mapping toolkit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019