•Coined by sociologist C. Wright Mills (1959), a radical sociologist
•“how individuals understand their own and others’ pasts in relation to history and social
structure” (Mills, 1959)
•“The ability to understand the dynamic between individual lives and larger society.” (Ravelli
•Ideas inspired American sociologist Peter Berger (1963) to encourage sociologists to look
for the “general in the particular” and the “strange in the familiar”
•Why is it important?
•Helps to address the macro/micro divide in sociology. (it is embraced by all sociologists,
no matter their theoretical framework)
•The capacity to understand one’s personal/private troubles in the context of the
broader social processes that structure them.
•Personal troubles are actually often public/social issues (unemployment, obesity,
relationship difficulties etc...)
•Seeing one’s own history in a social context improves quality of mind (the ability to see
shades of grey, not simply black and white).
•Who are “youth” anyways?
•Varying definitions (across place, time, stakeholder interest...)
•For centuries in the West, no sharp distinction between adult/non-adult existed
(marriage, military duty...)
•1400s, term “adolescent” emerges (Latin). Term was used throughout 1800s to
describe people aged 15-24.
•Industrial Revolution (1760-mid 1800s) Child labour (poor children working 12+ hours a
day in often horrible conditions for 10%of what an adult man would be paid)
•1900s -1960s: Adolescent psychology emerges (nature vs nurture debate). Deficit
Model emerges (youth as ‘moratorium’ period where young people are expected to
withdraw in order to search for and form their adult identities)
•1985 (the International Year of the Youth) the UN defined youth as being between 15-
•1989 New ‘Positive Youth Development’ approach emerges. (refers to intentional
efforts of other youth, adults, communities, government agencies and schools to
provide opportunities for youth to enhance their interests, skills, and abilities. Also a
discussion took place about youth into the 20s and 30s (Turning Points report & Youth
& America’s Future report)
•1990s ‘teenager’ and ‘tween’ (aged 11-14) invented by marketers
•Today: General prolongation of youth. Children growing up earlier and adulthood being
deferred. (Sukarieh & Tannok, 2011)