Girls Growing Up is a qualitative, longitudinal research project that examines the everyday lives and imagined futures of young girls and women aged 15–25, who have left the mainstream school system before finishing Year 12 or have in other ways have their transitional pathways interrupted. The project is funded by the Australian Research Council and runs from 2017 to 2020.

The project engages with key questions about how youth transitions are shaped in times of social change by exploring micro-processes of potential marginalisation, temporality and subjectivity with a particular focus on relations to place and belonging. By providing a ‘close up’ account of the girls’ everyday lives as they unfold, the project will rethink the notion of (dis-)connection to improve our understanding of when positions on the margins of the educational system lead to marginal positions more broadly.

Rather than focussing on specific ‘risk factors’ or applying a ‘deficit’ approach, this project investigates the connections and disconnections (e.g., to people, institutions, spaces, rhythms etc.) that are in play and how these work and are worked through in the girls’ everyday lives, as well as the resources that the girls have available. The longitudinal design of the project enables me to zoom in on the everyday in time; a focus crucial for understanding individuals’ sense of agency. It also allows me to follow how their orientations to the future change over time. Finally, by situating the research in locations undergoing economic and labour market changes, the research will speak to the challenges arising from this for young people growing up in these places.

key questions

The project investigates the following overall research questions:

  • How do girls who have left mainstream education early imagine and relate to their futures and future selves and which resources can they draw on in realising these futures?
  • How do processes of potential marginalisation unfold at the everyday level and over time amongst girls who have left mainstream education early?
  • How does ‘the local’ play into the girls’ sense of belonging and imagined futures?

These research questions are translated into more specific questions for each wave of the project; i.e., looking at critical moments in their lives, everyday temporalities, belonging and imagined futures.

Many thanks to all the participants in the project who have been incredibly kind and generous in sharing their stories.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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