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How Do Young People Talk About Relationships?

By Anna Bryant


Interpersonal relationships are important for young people’s social, emotional and mental wellbeing. Educational Psychologists in their work with children, young people and families play a role in promoting the social, emotional and mental wellbeing of young people. A review of previous literature suggested that young people’s voice is missing from much of the research about relationships. This research is positioned within an ontological perspective of social constructionism. It aimed to explore ways in which a group of Year 8 students used their language to talk about relationships; what meaning they drew from them, who they have relationships with and what is important about them.\ud 13 Year 8 students participated in the study and their views were explored using semi-structured interviews. Data gathered was then scrutinised using a discourse analysis technique. Three broad discourses were drawn upon by participants: ‘Social Contract’, ‘Interpersonal Aspects’ and ‘Relationship Diversity’. Within each of these there were smaller sub-discourses and interpretive repertoires drawn upon by participants to convey action and function within their talk. Participants considered relationships as very important, though they rejected the notion of a single construct of relationships, choosing instead to draw upon relationships with different people as different types of relationship. Friendship was the primary type of relationship which young people spoke about, however, they often constructed their discourse to undermine the importance of these friendships.\ud The research findings were incorporated within the wider literature and relevant links have been drawn between the study and psychological theories. Implications for the work of Educational Psychologists were also discussed, in terms of utilising relationships for interventions and supporting those working with young people to consider young people’s views and meaning making about relationships

Year: 2016
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