Research Programme


Twenty+ Futures: Recession, global threats and young people's anticipated futures as partners and parents

Lynn Jamieson, Sarah Cunningham Burley, Emma Rawlins

Project summary


The aim of this project was to explore how perceptions of global threats concerning the economy, security or the environment may be impacting on young adults’ views about their futures, including being a partner and becoming a parent. This research sits alongside the other larger-scale projects exploring household formation and fertility.


Through 35 semi-structured interviews with childless young adults, aged 20 -29 in further education, higher education or employment, the following issues were addressed:

  • Is recession intruding into how young people are thinking about, talking about, imagining, anticipating and experiencing partnering and parenting, in the context of the stage they are at in partnering and parenting?
  • How does recession intrude into young people’s everyday experience and conversation about their current and future lives (e.g. patterns of consumption and saving; views about migration, mobility and living arrangements - benefits of staying with parents, living independently in shared housing, living alone; being a couple; ideas about what is needed financially to have a child)?
  • Does a climate change intrude into young people’s talk about their current and anticipated future lives and does a sense of other current or anticipated global threats intrude into young people’s talk about their current and anticipated future lives?


Young adults main concerns about the future particularly focussed on employment, career prospects, and housing. In some cases, plans and planning could be summed up as a sense of delayed future. The main emergent theme was the impact of uncertainty and lack of economic security associated with recession. However, responses were tempered by family cultures as well as objective circumstances.

Car mobility, like parenting and, in some cases, partnering, was typically seen as temporarily on hold; a family, house and car in the suburbs remained a common ideal imagined future without reference to carbon footprint. At the same time, willingness to rethink circumstances and housing suitable for a family was also occasionally in evidence.

Security issue almost never surfaced as a concern but climate change, sustainability and the environment did sometimes intrude into imagined futures.


Project activities

Date Activity Description
9 May 2011 Presentation at the "New Researchers Conference" held at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Emma Rawlins presented her paper ‘“They’re all in the same boat as me and it’s sinking really fast”: Young People’s Support in a Time of Global Uncertainty’ at this event.



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Media activities

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