Being a good mum: Teens have their say

March 31, 2011

Just in time for Mother's Day teens have spoken out on what they consider makes a good mother. The project Young Lives and Times, part of the Timescapes study and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), reveals how teens view their mums.

Teens want their mums to be someone who cares for them, who is understanding and dependable no matter what they do. Meg (16) feels that a good mum should be: "someone who's there for you, someone you can talk to about most things, but, like, at the same time respects your privacy, is honest and just helps you with whatever you need". Another young person feels a mum has to be: "Someone who cares for you and looks after you well and who can understand how you feel and sees it from your point of view as well. And, say, if you've done bad in a test or you've done something wrong, she can still love you or be happy and care for you".

As well as carrying out motherly duties teens felt it was important for mums to be able to have fun with them. Jessica (15) believes that a good mum should 'always be up for a laugh'. Even though teens expect mums to look after them and be there for them, they also value and look up to their mums as an important and influential person in their lives. "I'm quite proud of her as well cause she's been through a lot.....she's managed with three kids... I admire her for that'' comments Sophie (15).

Dr Carmen Lau Clayton, research fellow for the project, believes that many of the teens interviewed have similar views on what a good mother should be. She says: "Many of the teens cited similar qualities of what a 'good mother' should be despite their varied backgrounds and circumstances. It is also very clear that mothers play a significant role in young people's lives and in helping them to make important decisions for the future."

The project has followed a group of young people with varied backgrounds from the age of 15 as they grow through their teenage years and into early adulthood. The project allows young people to respond to researchers in a way that is comfortable and often innovative, with some of the young people documenting their lives through video diaries. This unique method of collecting the young people views reveals in-depth data which is reflected in their own words.
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An archive complete with in-depth interviews, photographs, video and audio diaries from young people will show changes to their lives as they occur. This archive will be in the form of a living time capsule of life in the early 21st century and will be of valuable use to policy makers, sociologists and future historians.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND INTERVIEW REQUESTS, CONTACT Sarah Finney, Timescapes (Tel: 0113 343 8489, email: S.J.finney@leeds.ac.uk)

ESRC Press Office: Danielle Moore (Tel: 01793 413122, email: danielle.moore@esrc.ac.uk)

Jeanine Woolley (Tel: 01793 413119, email: jeanine.woolley@esrc.ac.uk)

Notes to editors

1. The 'Young Lives and Times' project is based at Leeds University and is part of the Economic and Social Research Council funded Timescapes programme, a major UK longitudinal study that tracks changing family and personal relationships over time. More at Young Lives and Times.

2. Timescapes is directed by Bren Neale, Professor of Life Course and Family Research, in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds. Professor Janet Holland is co-director for Timescapes based at London South Bank University.

3. Timescapes is documenting people's experiences of growing up, relationships, having children, living in families and growing older through carrying out seven different research projects based at five different University institutions across the UK - Leeds, London South Bank, Cardiff, Edinburgh and the Open University. More at www.timescapes.leeds.ac.uk

4. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total budget for 2010/11 is £218 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at www.esrc.ac.uk

5. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise showed the University of Leeds to be the UK's eighth biggest research powerhouse. The University is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The University's vision is to secure a place among the world's top 50 by 2015. www.leeds.ac.uk

6. The Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law brings together internationally-renowned expertise in these key areas of human interaction. Its four schools - education; sociology and social policy; politics and international studies; law - embed world-leading research into a range of undergraduate, postgraduate and professional development courses. www.essl.leeds.ac.uk

Economic & Social Research Council

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