14 SES 08 A, School-related Transitions Within a Life Course Perspective – Later Phases
Parallel Paper Session
Young persons in their twenties are expected to be occupied with work or studies. However, people with disabilities and health difficulties may have problems with higher education or finding employment. When they do not succeed in these domains of adult life, they are entitled to different forms of public assistance, e.g., financial social assistance and welfare benefits. This is often the case with vulnerable people, e.g., former students with special educational needs who often encounter difficulties in their transition to adulthood.
This paper analyses which circumstances contribute to dependence on financial social assistance among SEN-students whom we have followed prospectively from their first years in upper secondary school and into their early and late twenties. I want to analyse which variables influence dependence on financial social assistance at two stages of life, in the beginning and in the end of the twenties. The intention is also to examine whether the independent variables have similar or different impact for men and women.
This longitudinal study draws inspiration from two complementary fields of knowledge: life span psychology and life course sociology. The first of these includes the proximal context (e.g., family and social relationships), whereas the second approach includes more distal features (e.g., structural and cultural context). The combination of proximal and distal contexts shape the timing and form of the transitions through which the life course is constructed (cf. Bynner, 2008).
The life course approach provides a framework for research that helps to identify and formulate research topics and guides the selection of methodological design. This has definitively been the case in the present research project that started in the mid 1990´s (cf. Kvalsund and Myklebust, 1996). An individual’s life course is affected by past events, is influenced by present opportunities or restrictions, and can often be comprehended on the basis of future prospects. The life course is frequently perceived as the sum of those pathways or trajectories (e.g., in education, work, and family life) that individuals and groups follow through historical, geographical, or structural contexts. An example of such a context is the present structure of special education in upper secondary schools in Norway.
Today, the life course perspective is increasingly applied to the study of social processes. Naturally, the life course manifests itself not only in the long term but also in the short term, thus making transition the most appropriate concept (cf. Elder and Johnson, 2003:54).Examples of such transitions are when adolescents leave the parental home or when adolescents with special educational needs obtain paid work.
Studies of trajectories and transitions require a longitudinal design, which is generally a very expensive approach. Presumably for this reason, most longitudinal studies of adolescents with disabilities have small samples with a restricted time span (see Blossfeld et al., 2009, for a discussion of German longitudinal studies of educational trajectories).
Blossfeld, H.P., T. Schneider and J. Doll (2009): Methodological Advances of Panel Studies. Designing the New National Educational Panel Study (NEPS) in Germany. JERO, Vol. 1, No. 1: 10 – 32. Bynner, J. (2008). Developmental Science in the Melting Pot. Journal of Social Issues.Vol. 64, No. 1:219 – 225. Elder, G.H. and M.K. Johnson (2003). The Life Course and Aging: Challenges, Lessons, and New Directions. In R. Settersten (ed.): Invitation to the Life Course. Toward New Understandings of Later Life, 49 – 81. New York: Baywood Publishing Company. Kvalsund, R. and J.O. Myklebust (1996). Nedst ved bordet? Vidaregåande opplæring på særskilde vilkår under Reform 94. [At the End of the Table. Upper Secondary Education on Special Terms during Reform 94]. In J.F. Blichfeldt (ed.): Utdanning for alle? Evaluering av Reform 94. [Education for All? Evaluation of Reform 94] Oslo: Tano Aschehoug. Kvalsund, R. and I.V. Bele (2010). Adaptive situations and social marginalization in early adult life: students with special educational needs. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research. Vol. 12, No. 1:59 –76. Myklebust, J.O. (2007). Divergent Paths: Competence attainment among students with special educational needs. International Journal of Inclusive Education. Vol. 11. No. 2: 215–231. Myklebust, J.O. and F.O. Båtevik (2005). Economic Independence for Adolescents with Special Educational Needs. European Journal of Special Needs Education. Vol. 20, No. 3: 271–286.
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