Women dancing

Youth, development and social practices

Exploring research, innovation and activities developed in collaboration with young people

The focus on young people, their development and social practices, particularly in England, has historically been associated with moral panics related to wellbeing, criminogenic or educational concerns. At best, positive outcomes for young people have been largely attributed to organisations that have influence over their lives.

Consequently, youth voice, personal agency and youth practices have become increasingly scrutinised at organisational level through the lens of market led objectives that focus primarily on addressing youth, their development and social practices as units of economic capital (see DfE 2016). The positioning of young peoples’ voices that reflect their concerns and enable them to participate in the decision-making processes of organisations to which they attend has become increasingly marginalised.

More recently though, a body of research and practice is emerging in England and in wider jurisdictions internationally that invites young people to participate in the processes of research and subsequent social and organisational change. Drawing on models of action and participant action research, their experiences and concerns position the reader, practitioners and policy makers with them as collaborators in social and organisational activism. Here, young people, their activities, voices and concerns are not disassociated from their civic responsibilities as citizens. However, they are also valued as an end in themselves and in response, their voices brought to the table as equal participants in wider social and developmental change.

This area of expertise provides a platform that showcases research, innovation and wider activities being developed in collaboration with young people, community members and practitioner and academic colleagues to build on this emerging body of work. Our impact is a work in progress that is starting to see change at personal, organisational and policy level but with young people as drivers of change at its heart.

Our research is frequently published in leading academic and practitioner publications and journals, including the Journal of Youth Studies, International Journal of Social Pedagogy, The Conversation, Time Education Supplement and the British Journal of Counselling and Psychology. We hold advisory roles with OCR equality and diversity committee and collaborate with the national Youth Agency and Social Pedagogy Professional Association.

Our research and innovation focuses on the following key topics

  • Young people, online / offline social practices
  • Youth voice on exclusion, absenteeism and education disengagement
  • Young people and participation action research
  • Multi-disciplinary research and collaboration
  • Youth, community, advocacy and mentoring
  • Young people, family and relationship

Partnerships and collaborations

We work in close collaboration with local secondary schools in Portsmouth and across West Sussex, with regional Integrated Prevention and Earliest Help (IPEH) services, and Sussex Police.

Publication highlights

Research projects

  • A Systematic Review of UK Social Work Practice in Safeguarding Disabled Children and Young People

    Disabled children have an increased risk of experiencing abuse, but we know that this group do not always receive the best child protection service. Often their abuse goes unnoticed and/or support is not put in place to better protect them, or help them to recover from abuse. This systematic review synthesised existing UK evidence so that we can learn what works best to protect and support disabled children and young people who are at risk of, or who have experienced, abuse. This study focused on research which had sought the views of disabled children and young people, parents/carers and practitioners.

  • Support for parents/carers of children with special educational needs and disability who have experienced child sexual exploitation.

    Working in partnership with two highly respected expert national voluntary organisations (PACE and ACT), and utilising in-depth interviews, this study will explore the experiences of up to 20 parents/carers of children and young people with SEND (from across England and Wales) who have experienced child sexual exploitation. The aim of the study will be to highlight the specific needs of this group to inform policy and practice development.

  • Uniting Disabled Youth: Research, Empowerment and Participation – Developing a Methodology to Involve Disabled Youth in International Decision-Making Forums

    Disabled young people are often invisible in local, national and international decision-making forums. This British Academy Youth Futures funded project seeks to address this through an innovative partnership between the University of Portsmouth, disabled activists, disabled person-led organisations (DPOs) and disabled young people across the Global South and North.

    Specifically, the project team is looking to adapt a disabled young people–led research methodology developed in the UK to meet the cultural/political environment of the Philippines.

  • UoP Grade Gap Project

    Looking at the attainment gap in UK Higher Education between students from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and their white peers, this study aims to draw on and extend the principles and working practices of a participatory action research project that are framed with Freire’s decoding model.

Discover our areas of expertise

Youth, development and social practices is one of our five areas of expertise in Education research – explore the others below.

Early years education

In this area of expertise, we're exploring the experiences and opportunities that play a role in the development of young children.

Teacher's hand extracting early years book from shelf
Read more

Further education

We're exploring all aspects of further education, from adult education to transitions from military service, leadership and management to further education student experience.

Read more

Higher education

We're researching into issues in higher education, and finding solutions to them. Explore our higher education research.

Group of postgraduate students in a meeting room
Read more

Gender, race and education

Our work is identifying, exploring and engaging with forms of discrimination across gender and race in the education system.

Female student in library looking over paperwork
Read more

Interested in a PhD in Education?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Education postgraduate research degrees page.