09:42pm Monday 20 January 2020

Teenagers' lives limited by adult constraints

Dr Pip Williams has researched opportunities for teenagers in the suburbs as part of a major report launched todayThe ‘Mobility, Mothers and Malls’ report investigates how home, community, school, teenage work and adult work all affect opportunity for teenagers in the suburbs. It is part of the four-year Work, Home and Community Project by UniSA’s Centre for Work + Life, to be launched today.
Project Manager Dr Pip Williams said how teenagers are accommodated by home, local community and parental work affects not only their well-being but the well-being of their family and the wider community.
“What teenagers do, how they do it, when they do it and who they do it with sits within, and sometimes butts up against, the spatial and temporal realities of their parents and other adults in their communities,” she said.
One hundred and seventy-four boys and girls aged between 11 and 18 years took part in focus groups with Dr Williams and her colleagues. The teenagers were from public and private schools servicing three master-planned communities and three traditional lower socio-economic status suburbs in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.
Among the findings are:
Incompatible schedules between teenagers and their parents results in reduced access to activities and friends and a perception that they are missing out.
Homework is considered excessive in senior high school and a number of teenagers describe daily schedules that leave them exhausted and with little time to interact with family or friends.
School location is significant in terms of the demands and resources placed on the teenager, their family and the community. Local schools minimise demands of travel and maximise social interaction with peers and other members of the local community.
Teenagers want more understanding about demands of school, home and paid work and also want to see more convenient scheduling of these conflicting activities, such as more consolidation of homework into school time.
Teenagers regardless of age or socio-economic background often feel marginalised in their local communities.
An absence of appropriate amenity coupled with poor public transport systems leave the vast majority of teenagers complaining of ‘nothing to do’.
Dr Williams said teenagers from homes with fewer amenity and mobility resources relied on adequate community resources to gain access to opportunity. However, communities with a large proportion of disadvantaged households often lacked these resources.
“Teenagers from better resourced homes are less reliant on community resources, but this comes at a cost,” she said.
“This includes mothers having to make sacrifices in relation to their career to be available to their children. There’s also the trend to withdraw children from under resourced local public schools in favour of private schooling outside the area, which means teenagers forgo social connection with their community, and communities and schools lose well resourced families from the social milieu which erodes social capital.”
Dr Williams said the research had clear implications for policy and action.
“This research suggests that specific actions by governments at all levels, employers, planners, service providers, schools, parents and teenagers can result in better outcomes for teenagers in our communities,” she said.
“Action should focus on increasing resources available in the homes and residential communities of teenagers, particularly teenagers from lower socioeconomic areas, and reducing demands on teenagers and their parents that are associated with adult work and transport infrastructure in particular.”

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