New book Youth Sociology helps understand youth pressures of today

Monday, 6 July 2020

Youth is a key period of transition with many challenges and issues for young people to contend with. A new book co-authored by University of Newcastle youth sociologist Dr Julia Coffey titled Youth Sociology helps break down and understand the pressures on youth today.

Youth sociology book cover

Julia with her co-authors Alan FranceSteven Roberts, and Catherine Waite, help to define and make sense of the tumultuous period known as ‘youth’ through the lens of sociology, examining young people’s histories, environments, culture and social location to help understand their decisions and identities.

“Sociology helps us to understand youth by looking outwards – beyond individual young people, to look at the circumstances shaping their lives as a generation which are different from previous generations. This helps us to think more laterally about the issues and challenges young people face, resisting ‘moral panics’ about young people’s behaviours, instead providing context which leads to greater understandings of how we are all shaped by, and shape, our societies,” Julia said.

From the pressures created by social media to the increasing precarity of employment, the book unpacks the major social, cultural and economic developments of our time that are impacting this period of life in myriad ways.

Julia said the casualised and precarious youth labour market is one of the largest points of difference for the current generation of youth, compared to previous generations.

“Their working lives, and expectations of work and life, are forged in conditions where the full-time labour market is almost non-existent compared to their parents’ generation. Increased global mobilities – before COVID-19, at least – also comprised huge cultural and social shifts in the lives of young people,” she said.

“Digital cultures forged through the new technologies of social media provide a range of new opportunities, and difficulties, for the current generation of young people. Young people today in Australia and around the world have higher levels of education – including post-secondary – than ever before and are at the forefront in tackling injustices – from environmental causes, to gender and sexuality rights, and advancing racial justice.”

Youth Sociology helps readers to understand how changes in labour and technology factor into the experience of being young today and illuminates the realities of the world in which young people live.

“When we wrote the book in 2019, the future for youth looked precarious in the face of sharpening social and economic inequalities and the rise of the Right, particularly in places like the USA and Australia. The world has changed once again, and we now see young people as the hardest-hit generation in terms of unemployment due to Covid-19 in Australia. This pandemic alone will have ongoing impacts for young people and drive huge changes economically, socially, and culturally,” Julia said.

Julia wrote the chapter on Youth Wellbeing, and contributed to the focus on Gender and Sexuality which is woven throughout the book – but particularly in Chapters 1 and 2.

“We wrote collaboratively for most of the chapters, and I took the lead in editing the book as a whole for consistency and coherence.”

The book was initially led by Professor Alan France and Associate Professor Steve Roberts, who wanted to contribute a textbook on Youth Sociology that went beyond the usual focus on the Global North, to focus on issues of Globalisation, Mobilities, and Social Class. The sociology of youth originated in the United Kingdom, and the authors all wanted to give a historical perspective on the concepts and approaches which informed the development of the discipline, whilst recognising the blind spots of theories and concepts devised in a specific time and place.

“We hope that by giving a trajectory on the perspectives that informed youth sociology, we can see what gaps remain and what new focusses are needed in these times of rapid economic, social, and cultural changes.”

Book Review

“This is an important new book for all those interested in understanding the lives of young people and the changing social situation of youth. Written by expert scholars, and with a global perspective, the book provides an authoritative, wide-ranging, carefully-curated and accessible introduction to youth sociology. It will be of enormous value to researchers, teachers and students. – Robert MacDonald, University of Huddersfield, UK

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