Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth

Examples of doctoral research

CIRCY's doctoral researchers also conduct important funded research in the area of childhood and youth. Here are some recent examples:

Exploring Children and Young Poeple's Critical Thinking: The case of YouTube

by Evelyn Keryova (Social Work & Social Care)
September 2018 - current

The video sharing social media website YouTube is one of the most popular platforms for young people - who have been called "YouTube natives" due to their heavy use of it (Dolliver, 2016). Becoming "a YouTuber" is a dream job for many (Stokel-Walker, 2019), with UK media regulator Ofcom (2018) suggesting a clear shift from watching traditional television to YouTube content among young people of all ages, but particularly 12-14 year olds.

Evelyn Keryova's research explores the critical thinking of young people who are active users of YouTube and the impact of YouTube "influencers" on young people. This doctoral research project, supervised by Dr Liam Berriman and Professor Rachel Thomson, addresses a lack of research on how young people aged 12-14 understand and engage with YouTube, and whether this can be understood as 'critical thinking'. The research explores young people's participation and use of social media, and examines the shift from watching television to YouTube content. The concept of everyday culture is relatively new; current studies are very separate and do not speak together. This study is intended to offer a focus towards young people's perspectives on critical thinking, and to determine what the critical thinking for both active and passive audiences looks like when participating online or offline on YouTube. It also discusses potential changes in this leading video-based social media platform.

Working closely with young people and their parents, this mixed methods research study has involved online surveys, interviews and focus groups.

You can see more details on Evelyn's own website.

Understanding a Child's Journey to and in Restorative Justice in Youth Justice in England and Wales: Professional perspectives

by Julia Winstone (Criminology)
September 2016 – current

Julia is currently (in 2023) conducting ESRC-funded research exploring professional perspectives from a wide range of Youth Justice Practitioners on a child's journey from first contact with the Youth Justice System in one city case study area in England and Wales from a socio-legal perspective, identifying catalysts and barriers to restorative justice. Professional perspectives have been obtained from schools, Custody & Youth Offending Service police, and Youth Offending Team staff and volunteers at every stage of the journey.

Julia's research considers specifically the disproportionate number of children who enter the Youth Justice System with speech, language and communication needs - as well as specific learning differences - compared to numbers in the general population, along with how Restorative Justice fits within the range of responses and disposals for youth crime delivered in the case study area. It also considers the practical and logistical aspects involved in setting up and running Restorative Justice processes, responses and disposals - as well as the other factors taken into account by practitioners, and why. Finally, the research also considers the interplay between the police and Youth Offending Services in the case study area.

Preliminary findings highlight the importance of a consistent approach to behaviour management in schools to avoid the unnecessary criminalisation of children, rather then excluding children and refusing attempts to repair harms in schools. The study will develop a set of recommendations for how a holistic Children First approach could be developed throughout a child's journey to Restorative Justice in the case study area.

Children's Emerging Understandings on Nature and Sustainability

by Kathleen Bailey (Education)
September 2018 - current

This post-qualitative research study embraces a post-humanist perspective to explore the ways in which young people engage with "nature", and how their emerging ideas on sustainability are influenced by the context of climate change and a Global Economic Market. Of particular interest are the ways in which adults intra-act with children during the meaning-making process. The aim of the research is to make specific suggestions for the way in which notions of sustainability might be actively embedded throughout the educational curriculum for children aged 0-8 in ways that recognise that climate change is happening now with consequences for today's children and those of the future.Using a diffractive analysis, Kathleen brings an array of disciplines into the analytical process to tease out ideas of what is going on at the interface of children, adults and the 'natural' world.

Initial findings suggest that children engage with the 'natural' world to create 'technologies' that seem to enable them to construct and negotiate the culturally constructed worlds in which they live, including a cultural construction of the child as 'vulnerable'. This construction appears to be congruent with a human capacity to support dissonance, such as the need for sacrifices associated with economic wealth and related notions of wellbeing taht might achieve sustainability. Equally significant are children's prior knowledges relating to sustainaility and the way in which they seem able to engage politically with one other and adults to uphold shared ethics relating to other species, nature and sustainability.

Being And Doing Boy: Marginalised young masculinities and professional practice

by Roma Thomas (Social Work & Social Care)
Completed January 2022 

Roma conducted a small-scale qualitative, ethnographic study of the lived experience of teenage boys, age 14- 16 who have been excluded from mainstream school. The boys had in common disruptive behaviour as the grounds on which they were excluded.  Nationally, disruptive behaviour is also the most common reason for both fixed term and permanent exclusions and boys are three times more likely to be excluded from school than girls. Black and mixed race boys from an Afro-Caribbean background are over-represented in the numbers of young people excluded. Roma undertook groupwork as a way of engaging directly with the boys and bringing their voices to the fore.

The group work with five teenage boys (age 14 – 15) comprised twice-weekly 1.5 hour sessions at a Pupil Referral Unit. A drama professional facilitated the group work sessions, enabling Roma to take the position of researcher (and participant observer). Use of drama provided ways for boys to enact certain performances (or ways of being) and to reflect and have conversations about the reasons behind these performances.  Deeper questions of identity could be explored through noticing these practices. The fact that the group work took place over a short but sustained period of time also enabled relational approaches to become part of the research, as the young people got to know me. This would not have been possible for example in a single interview or focus group.  The ethnographic element also enabled Roma to spend time and pay attention to the boys’ everyday lives at the Pupil Referral Unit. 

Roma is now a Principal Lecturer in the School of Applied Social Science at the University of Bedfordshire.

Read Roma's thesis.

'Living On The Margins': Understanding wellbeing through the everyday lived experiences of young Arabs/Palestinians in Jerusalem: An exploration of the role of extracurricular art activities in supporting wellbeing

by May Nasrawy (Social Work & Social Care)
Completed October 2021

This study explored the wellbeing of young people from Arab/Palestinian minority communities in Jerusalem through understanding their everyday lived experiences. Its main objective was to create new understandings of young people's wellbeing in contexts affected by political violence. May employed a qualitative design implemented through interpretive phenomenological analysis, through which she was able to provide new understandings of wellbeing beyond the psychological impact of exposure to political conflict and the development of PTSD, and explored the role of extracurricular art activities in promoting wellbeing.

The stories of 44 young people of both genders were gathered through semi-structured interviews, focus groups and observations. In parallel, creative methods - including the use of drawings, photos, timelines, maps and others - were used to elicit the responses of young people and to facilitate their exploration and expression of their everyday experiences.

Key findings revealed the extent to which young people’s everyday lived experiences are shaped by violence, resulting from direct and indirect exposure to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Importantly, the results also highlight how young people’s experiences are influenced by the consequences of structural violence, which are manifested in the inequality and discrimination experienced in almost every aspect of their lives. This violence results in constant feelings of fear, insecurity, lack of safety, uncertainty, and for most young people, hopelessness for a better future. May’s interpretation of young people’s stories further revealed a crucial finding. In trying to understand the challenges to their wellbeing, and the elements they found supportive, the interpretation revealed there was a duality experienced by young people, where sources of support were also sources of oppression. This duality is experienced in almost all aspects of young people’s lives including family/relationships, school and the wider community. Drawing on the works of Freire (1970), and psychosocial theory (Goldstein, 2013), the study showed that in order to understand the duality experienced in young people’s lives, there is a need to re-think and re-define wellbeing in ways which allow for a much deeper understanding of the social and political contexts, and the impact these have on young people’s lives, beyond the psychological effects that have been the focus of previous research.

Read May's thesis.

Illuminating Adoptive Family Practices in India: A narrative analysis of policy and lived experience

by Sushri Sangita Puhan (Social Work & Social Care)
Completed September 2021

This doctoral study was concerned with the ways in which adoptive family lives are practiced in contemporary India from a social work perspective. It was written in a time of urgent and contentious policy change which emphasised radical new ways of thinking about the practice of adoptive family life as a legitimate version of kinship. Governed by multiple laws – both religious and secular – the adoption trend in India has been re-modelled through the introduction of secular policy, with a focus on advancing in-country adoption. The study demonstrated how adoption policy and lived experience narratives intersect as adoption becomes consolidated as a legitimate form of family. It focused on the day-to-day family practices that emerge in adoptive families, and the ways these are shaped by adoption discourse. Drawing on theories of family and kinship, the study illuminated everyday practices of adoptive family lives in an environment where changing legal narratives contradict practice narrative.

Read Sushri's thesis.