Involuntary relocation and outcomes for children and young people

Thursday 31 May 2018

The aim of this article is to understand how involuntary relocation – in the context of transformational regeneration in Glasgow – affects children and young people’s (CYP) interim outcomes through its impacts on residential contexts, and its intersections with their transitions and critical moments. Its findings are based on a longitudinal qualitative study of 13 families’ (comprising 32 CYP) lives as they relocated from high rise flats that were being demolished to different housing and neighbourhoods over three years.

For CYP relocation can be considered a significant life event in their transitions, and can have a major impact on the child or young person. Alternatively, it is possible that relocation may be experienced as insignificant and part and parcel of the process of growing up. Whilst there is a growing literature in the field of youth sociology about growing up in deprived neighbourhoods, and on youth transitions and health, there is little known about how involuntary relocation interconnects with these other phenomena.

We found that relocation altered two key contexts directly, home and neighbourhood, and may have indirectly altered the other contexts – peers, school and family. Acquiring own space or having opportunities for activities in the area, for example, can be considered interim outcomes in their own right, but they can also be the means towards more concrete outcomes such as educational attainment or supportive social networks further down the line.

But relocation is only one of many things happening in the lives of CYP which they have to deal with. At the same time as relocation, CYP are negotiating aspects of growing up including developing relationships, school transitions and making decisions about the future. We found there were as many non-relocation related factors as relocation factors associated with outcomes. A number of ‘critical moments’ were identified – including serious illness, death of a parent, coming out as gay - throughout the three-year period which potentially had a bearing on CYP’s outcomes and experiences. Our study demonstrates the value of recognizing that the impacts of involuntary relocation upon interim outcomes for CYP cannot be studied in isolation from other events and ongoing processes in their lives, and that interactions between relocation and youth transitions and critical moments require examination.

Whilst relocation can seem the ‘big thing’ from the point of view of practitioners and researchers, from the perspective of CYP, it can seem a small part of the much bigger picture of change in their lives. Furthermore, the potential impacts of relocation upon families and CYP depend upon the parameters and wider geographical context of the regeneration process itself, and are not necessarily the same everywhere, even within the UK.

Access the article: Changing contexts, critical moments and transitions: interim outcomes for children and young people living through involuntary relocation (Louise Lawson and Ade Kearns)