The majority of teenaged girls who participated in a Massey study of family life prioritised travel, study and home ownership above marriage and motherhood.
The two-year study led by Dr Jackie Sanders in the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work followed three groups of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 - those no longer in school, those at a co-educational high school performing at an average level, and those in accelerated classes at single-sex schools. Their parents were also interviewed.
Dr Sanders says the results, especially the amount of independence showed by the teenagers, were surprising.
“This study shows what is important to teenagers right now - it is a slice of their lives and an insight into the way they are planning for their futures. What we found most interesting was the strength of connection they have to their parents, and the appreciation they have for their parents.”
Dr Sanders says there is a social misconception that teenagers want to break away from their parents, and, conversely, that parents should ‘let go’. “What we found is that, yes they want to get out and experience the world, but they also want to know their parents will be there for them, as an enduring support.”
The study of the 30 girls follows a similar study of teenage boys conducted by Dr Sanders and her team of researchers between 2000 and 2002. She says a greater number of the young male participants were interested in having relationships and families, unlike the young females who placed travel, car and home ownership above relationships and children. Both groups identified a need for continued parental support even they pushed their parents away.
The researchers are planning to conduct a similar study adapted for a younger aged group, following the findings that showed future pathways were set in place during primary school years.