Adolescent Sociality across Cultures: Establishing a Japan-UK Collaboration

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Anthropology

Abstract

Human sociality -the way we interact and cooperate with others around us- is thought to underpin "human uniqueness." With our highly cooperative nature being an evolutionary puzzle, human sociality has been extensively studied. However, researchers have predominantly focused on Western populations, risking a biased scientific understanding. Further, observational and experimental studies have focused on children and adults, broadly overlooked adolescent sociality- an oversight given the significance of adolescence as a key developmental period.

Given how our social world can impact our health and behaviour, it is important for researchers to understand the nature and consequences of adolescent sociality. In this project, we will establish a long-term collaboration on adolescent sociality in Japan and the UK, with particular focus on adolescent social networks and communication. We will do this by:

1)Establishing four urban/rural field sites in two countries: We will develop long-term relationships with schools in urban & rural locations in Japan and the UK (Tokyo & Aomori in Japan, London & Torbay in England). We will do this by running a participation project on "family & friends" with teenagers, where they will document stories and photographs about the people that are important to them. Their stories will be shared with participating partner schools in Japan and the UK, and exhibited at University College London. Our aim is to establish a mutually beneficial relationship between schools and researchers, so we can work together and conduct studies in the future.

2)Developing a cross-national data collection: We will develop a cross-national survey on adolescent sociality, and explore the best ways to collect data across the two countries. We will develop the survey questions by exploring existing cohort studies in Japan and the UK, as well as feedback from teenagers/schools, and feedback from other researchers from the Adolescent Sociality Research Network (see below). The survey will be piloted in the next stage of the project. By investing properly in preliminary survey design, we will ensure our cross-national collaboration is successful over the long term.

3)Preparing & submitting joint funding applications: Building on our survey development work, we will prepare and submit funding proposals for two complementary projects; one on adolescent social networks (ERC Starting Grant) and another on adolescent communication (JSPS Grants in Aid for Scientific Research). Where relevant, we will make additional ad-hoc applications for funding. This will ensure our cross-national collaboration is sustained over the long term.

4)Establishing an Adolescent Sociality Research Network: Cross-national collaborations is likely to be more successful where there is supporting "infrastructure" of collaborative networks. We will therefore set-up an Adolescent Sociality Research Network by organising two Idea Exchange workshops (one in each country), and by creating an international community of researchers interested in adolescent sociality through web forums and open science activities. This Research Network will be an important resource for ideas and feedback for our project.

Overall, our activities will establish & maintain long-term collaborations between evolutionary social scientists in Japan and the UK, centring on Adolescent Sociality. Our dual-focus on Japan and the UK is critical to the success of our project, particularly due to the existing research bias focusing on Western populations. By comparing different groups of adolescents between and within a countries, we are better able to investigate the determinants and consequences of adolescent sociality. With growing international interest around adolescence in policy and research, and recent focus on the ontogeny of sociality through the life-course, our cross-national collaboration is a timely contribution to the broader study of adolescence & human sociality.

Planned Impact

Our project will create social impact in the following ways:

1)Empowering teenagers as participants rather than subjects of research: We will run participation projects with teenagers on 'family and friends,' which will involve documenting stories and photographs relating to people that are important to them. The project will provide opportunities for teenagers to engage with the research development process, and make sure their views and opinions are heard. We will share their stories/photographs with partner schools in Japan/UK, as well as through a public exhibition - ensuring we establish a mutually beneficial relationship rather than treating teenagers purely as subjects of research.

2)Science engagement with schools and teenagers: Our project will provide opportunities for teenagers to engage with academic researchers, including learning about what we do and how. This is particularly important for teenagers living in relatively deprived rural areas, who have fewer opportunities to meet researchers and learn about our roles. As part of the project they will be trained about consent and privacy, and learn about the research process. We hope this will bring out interest in social science research.

3)Exploring cultural differences with teenagers: The stories and photographs about families and friends will be "swapped" and discussed with teenagers Japan and the UK (with support from staff). This will provide a rare opportunity for teenagers to engage with cultural and language differences, reflecting on what is similar about their family & friends and what is different. We hope this will be a valuable experience for participants, expanding their world view.

4)Connecting schools in Japan and the UK: Our project will build networks between schools in London, Torbay, Tokyo and Aomori, and we will support schools and teachers to liaise with each other. This will be beneficial for schools who will be able to learn about different educational practices, and may be of particular interest for English teachers in Japan who will gain a UK school contact.

5)Bringing wider opportunities for the community: Our project is an investment in teenagers, which is also an investment into their communities. For the relatively deprived/rural field sites (Aomori & Torbay), our activities with these communities may increase their presence, which could be a catalyst for future local opportunities.

6)Public engagement and communicating adolescence in a positive light: In our previous engagement work, UK teenagers told us they felt misunderstood by the older generation who label them as 'lazy,' 'self-obsessed,' and 'selfish' (e.g., being called the selfie generation). By holding an exhibition on teen stories about friends and family, we will engage with the public and researchers about adolescence in a more positive light. We hope this will contribute to greater cross-generational understanding while shining a light on the nuance of adolescence.

7)Working with non-profit organisations: We will build on our relationship with non-profits in the UK, and establish new ones with non-profits in Japan if opportunity permits (note, the non-profit sector is considerably smaller in Japan). We will invite appropriate charities such as The Children's Society and Parent Zone to attend our project exhibition at UCL, ensuring that the stories and opinions of teenagers from our field sites are shared with a wider audience. Our ongoing engagement with charities will mean we are able to informally consult with them regarding our project development, with possibility of partnership in future.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description 1. What were the most significant achievements from the award?: Piloting data collection across two countries meant we are now knowledgeable around conducting data collection across Japan and England. For example, differences in ethics process, differences in school-recruitment process, and the different challenges. This means our next, large-scale data collection is more likely to be successful. We are currently drafting two papers - one on the methodology (photovoice methods across 2 countries) and one on the actual findings from the photographs (what adolescents captured as important aspects of their lives, in England and Japan).

2. To what extent were the award objectives met? If you can, briefly explain why any key objectives were not met.: Project objectives were broadly met; we have conducted fieldwork with schools across Japan and England, and have organised workshops and engaged with other researchers. The fieldwork was delayed due to challenges with school recruitment, but this is now complete - and has fed into our learning (see above). Our networking objective has been significantly negatively impacted by COVID, with our symposium event cancelled. We have taken an approach instead to locally network and connect, and have expanded the network to add students.

3. How might the findings be taken forward and by whom?: We are write up a methods-focused paper on using photovoice to substitute observational/ethological methods in "private" contents (such as adolescent lives), which will outline the recruitment and fieldwork challenges. This is likely to help researchers planning further collaboration across Japan & the UK.
Exploitation Route This should help researchers:
>Plan and conduct international data collections involving schools in Japan and England
>Clarify when photovoice projects may be effective as a substitute for observational/ethological data collection
>Outline key socio-ecological aspects in adolescent lives in Japan and England
>Understanding adolescence from adolescent perspectives
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education

URL https://www.adolescentsociality.com/
 
Title Research Data: Photographs and Text 
Description Data from "In My Life" photography project. This will be analysed this year. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact No notable impact yet. but participants and researchers have been able to see their photographs. 
URL https://www.adolescentsociality.com/photos
 
Description School Engagement and Data Collection in England 
Organisation London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We recruited and conduced fieldwork with schools in England (Devon and London) where students took part in a photovoice project, and published photographs online. We will now analyse these photographs.
Collaborator Contribution Partners helped with fieldwork.
Impact Publication of photographs on website. We will also co-author 1 publication, and are planning to submit a grant. Multi-disciplinary: Evolutionary Anthropology Population Health Evolutionary Demography
Start Year 2019
 
Description School Engagement and Data Collection in England 
Organisation London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We recruited and conduced fieldwork with schools in England (Devon and London) where students took part in a photovoice project, and published photographs online. We will now analyse these photographs.
Collaborator Contribution Partners helped with fieldwork.
Impact Publication of photographs on website. We will also co-author 1 publication, and are planning to submit a grant. Multi-disciplinary: Evolutionary Anthropology Population Health Evolutionary Demography
Start Year 2019
 
Description School Engagement and Data Collection in England 
Organisation University of Tokyo
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We recruited and conduced fieldwork with schools in England (Devon and London) where students took part in a photovoice project, and published photographs online. We will now analyse these photographs.
Collaborator Contribution Partners helped with fieldwork.
Impact Publication of photographs on website. We will also co-author 1 publication, and are planning to submit a grant. Multi-disciplinary: Evolutionary Anthropology Population Health Evolutionary Demography
Start Year 2019
 
Description School Engagement and Data Collection in Japan 
Organisation Hirosaki University
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We expanded our collaboration in Japan to engage with and recruit middle-schools. We conducted field work across 5 schools in Tokyo, Saitama and Aomori (Japanese counties).
Collaborator Contribution Partners engaged with and and recruited schools, acted as gatekeepers/facilitators between UK researchers, organised school visits, conducted photovoice fieldwork involving teenagers. They will also be involved in data analysis & will co-author a publication.
Impact We have not yet produced a publication, but student photographs have been published online. Students were encouraged to self-reflect and capture the important things in their lives, which we hope benefited them. Students said they had fun & enjoyed taking part. Disciplines: Psychology Education Evolutionary Anthropology
Start Year 2020
 
Description School Engagement and Data Collection in Japan 
Organisation Sophia University Japan
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We expanded our collaboration in Japan to engage with and recruit middle-schools. We conducted field work across 5 schools in Tokyo, Saitama and Aomori (Japanese counties).
Collaborator Contribution Partners engaged with and and recruited schools, acted as gatekeepers/facilitators between UK researchers, organised school visits, conducted photovoice fieldwork involving teenagers. They will also be involved in data analysis & will co-author a publication.
Impact We have not yet produced a publication, but student photographs have been published online. Students were encouraged to self-reflect and capture the important things in their lives, which we hope benefited them. Students said they had fun & enjoyed taking part. Disciplines: Psychology Education Evolutionary Anthropology
Start Year 2020
 
Description School Engagement and Data Collection in Japan 
Organisation University of Tokyo
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We expanded our collaboration in Japan to engage with and recruit middle-schools. We conducted field work across 5 schools in Tokyo, Saitama and Aomori (Japanese counties).
Collaborator Contribution Partners engaged with and and recruited schools, acted as gatekeepers/facilitators between UK researchers, organised school visits, conducted photovoice fieldwork involving teenagers. They will also be involved in data analysis & will co-author a publication.
Impact We have not yet produced a publication, but student photographs have been published online. Students were encouraged to self-reflect and capture the important things in their lives, which we hope benefited them. Students said they had fun & enjoyed taking part. Disciplines: Psychology Education Evolutionary Anthropology
Start Year 2020
 
Description Online Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Photographs taken by participants were published on www.adolescentsociality.com/photos. This was then shared/circulated online, as well as in participant school newsletters. We have had researchers contact us after seeing the photos etc. The most significant outcome of this is student empowerment, but this is not listed in the drop-down below.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL https://www.adolescentsociality.com/photos
 
Description Workshop & Symposium in Japan 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact We held a brainstorming workshop around adolescence with Japanese and UK researchers, followed by a 1-day public conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.adolescentsociality.com/post/adolescence-x-language-evolution-workshop-and-symposium-in-...