Biography, History and Place: Understanding Youth Transitions in Teesside

Robert MacDonald, Tracy Shildrick

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter is about young people's transitions to adulthood. During the 1990s and 2000s, the concept of 'transition' took some buffeting in Youth Studies. It was alleged to be overly normative and policy-driven, dominated by dry, quantitative approaches that failed to engage with the agency and cultures of the young and to be obsolete because of the blurring of the boundaries between youth and adulthood (Cohen and Ainley, 2000; Miles, 2000; Jeffs and Smith, 1998). We have argued, however, that there remains value in a concept that captures the inherently transitional nature of youth as a life phase, without prejudging what the nature, content, direction, form or length of what that transition might be (see MacDonald et al, 2001). 'Transition' has survived these earlier skirmishes. It remains one of the most important concepts in Youth Studies; by examining transitions in the youth phase, we gain a particularly privileged vantage point from which to discern wider processes of social change and continuity (Furlong and Cartmel, 2007; MacDonald, 2011). The research material that underpins the chapter has been gathered in a town, Middlesbrough (at the centre of Teesside in North East England), which itself has undergone remarkable transitions: from a rural hamlet in the early 19th century, to smoky industrial boom town within 50 years, to a place world-famous for its industrial prowess and output by the mid-twentieth century, to one of the poorest and most deindustrialised parts of the country in the early twenty-first century. Teesside is a fascinating place; the rapidity and sheer scale of change in its fortunes allow for close investigation of the sociological consequences of economic collapse. Dave Byrne (1999: 93) has described Teesside 'as one of the most deindustrialised locales' in the UK and, in fact, it is hard to think of anywhere else, including amongst the rust belt cities of the USA and Europe, that has undergone such a dramatic turnaround. It is in this place that we have undertaken a series of research projects first begun in the late 1990s - the Teesside Studies of Youth Transitions and Social Exclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransitions to adulthood through recession: youth and inequality in a European comparative perspective
Subtitle of host publicationYouth and Inequality in a European Comparative Perspective
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781351865807
ISBN (Print)9781138294288
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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