Conventional approaches to qualitative research seek to distill and capture meaning through a sequence of determined, progressive methodological steps that serve to synthesize difference toward a series of overarching claims regarding human experience. This approach reifies contemporary neoliberal values and, as a consequence, short-circuits any possibility for progressive social change. Through conventional research practices, the principles of security, schizoid, and statistical society accelerate, extending normalizing processes of governmentality, and producing a docile citizenry adverse to key elements of an engaged democracy. In such circumstance, risk is identified as the production of findings that are ambiguously defined, not attending to values of certainty and generalizable outcomes. As a consequence, conventional methodological practices fail to engage the postmodern condition—fragmented experiences with inconclusive outcomes are displaced by methodologies bent on merging difference into foreclosed meaning. Contrary to conventional approaches to research, post-foundational orientations emphasize relational logics that maintain difference within the inquiry project itself. A provocative example of this extends from newly materialist approaches to qualitative inquiry that emphasizes the productive possibilities inherent in difference and, as such, displace the simplified dialectical reasoning of conventional approaches in favor of more dialogic recognition of diffractive patterning. In this sense, open-ended difference makes possible previously unrecognized (even unthought) possibilities for being otherwise. As such, newly materialist approaches to inquiry manifest alternative ontological and epistemological practices that are not available to the conventional methodologist; they make possible an open-ended vision of the future that is necessary for radical democratic action. Furthermore, the fluid nature of such methodologies align well with Foucault’s explication of parrhesia, a means of truth-making that creates new possibilities for becoming otherwise. The intersection of newly materialist methodologies with parrhesia challenges methodologists to risk the very relations that secure their expertise, establishing a moral challenge to the impact of past practice on the possibilities inherent in the future.
Aaron M. Kuntz
Students in danger of not completing a particular level of schooling have been termed “at-risk.” Reasons that students may be at risk include individual characteristics, family circumstances, poor school conditions, and lack of community resources. Studies of single factors, multiple factors, and programmatic interventions have all identified specific variables associated with greater risk of dropping out of school. The various factors associated with dropping out can offset one another to reduce the risk or reinforce one another to enhance the risk that students will leave school early.
Kirstin Kerr and Alan Dyson
Countries across the world struggle to break the relationship between socio-economic disadvantage and educational outcomes. Even in otherwise affluent countries, children and young people from poor and marginalized families tend to do badly in education, and their lack of educational success makes it more likely that they will remain in poverty as adults. Moreover, socio-economic disadvantage and educational failure in these countries tend to be concentrated in particular places, such as the poor neighborhoods of large cities or of post-industrial towns. This has led policy-makers and practitioners in many administrations to favor area-based initiatives (ABIs), which target such places, as one set of responses to social and educational disadvantage. Some ABIs are limited to funding schools more generously in disadvantaged areas or giving them additional support and flexibilities. The more ambitious initiatives, however, seek to develop multistrand interventions to tackle both the educational and the social and economic problems of areas simultaneously. The evaluation evidence suggests that these initiatives have so far met with limited success at best. This has led some critics to conclude that there is a fundamental contradiction in their use of purely local interventions to tackle problems that originate outside ABIs’ target areas, in macro-level social and economic processes. However, it is possible to construct a convincing rationale for these initiatives by understanding the social ecologies that shape children’s outcomes, and by formulating holistic interventions aimed at reducing the risks in those ecologies and enhancing children’s resilience in the face of those risks. There is, moreover, evidence of a new generation of ABIs that has begun to emerge recently. These new ABIs are able to operate strategically and over the long-term, rather than being bound by the short-term nature of policy-making. These newer initiatives may offer a better prospect of tackling the link between social and educational disadvantage, even in unpromising economic circumstances, and even within the context of “politics as usual.”
In the United States, gender and health in adolescence are sites of contestation and conflict marked by both hyperrepresentations and absences. Youth who are multiply marginalized by interlocking systems of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and so on are overrepresented in cultural and policy domains as “at risk” for negative health outcomes. At the same time, absences surrounding young people’s complex health needs and experiences abound in schools, healthcare settings, families, and the media. For instance, debates around sex education and teen pregnancy prevention have dominated the policy landscape for decades, with no signs of receding any time soon. Missing from these debates has been an analysis of how the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality structure the health outcomes and educational experiences of diverse youth. Likewise, queer, transgender, and gender-expansive youth are overrepresented in discussions about bullying to the detriment of the social structural factors that produce poor mental health outcomes. Understanding how gender and health play out in the lives of adolescents, as well as at the level of social institutions and structures, is central to teasing out the dynamics of gender, health, and social inequalities.
Xu Zhao, Zhiyan Chen, and Leiping Bao
Adolescent psychology and mental health needs in China are part of an interdisciplinary area of research. In this area of research, macro and micro processes are closely linked; biological, cultural, and socio-structural influences tightly intertwined; and patterns identified in other societies fall apart due to the impact of powerful societal forces on individual psychology. As a result, there has been a fundamental and long-lasting split between the idea that “Chinese adolescent psychology” should be a distinctive science within China, addressing issues specific to the circumstances of Chinese children and families, and the argument that it should contribute to a universal theory of human development by documenting its applications to Chinese societies. The problem of the first idea lies in its assumption of cultural relativism or the incommensurability of the human experience of growing up in particular sociocultural contexts. In contrast, the problem of the second argument lies in its failure to ask what is “universal,” when a universal theory is applicable to China, and when it may not be. Arguably, adolescents in all cultures carry vulnerabilities and strengths as they go through the process of major biological and psychological transitions. Certain psychosocial needs, such as the needs for self-exploration, quality peer relationship, and continuous guidance and support from adults, are shared by adolescents across the world, albeit through different forms. When their basic needs are neglected by ideology-driven policies and practices that are carried to an extreme extent, youth mental health is seriously threatened. It is important for researchers not only to go beyond the dichotomous view of the field by taking an ecological approach and multidisciplinary perspectives to investigate the salient issues in adolescent psychology and mental health needs in their specific sociocultural context, but also to consider their broader implications for understanding universally relevant questions about success and sacrifice in human and social development.