• Sociological Imagination
• 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)
• Social Status: • Marqhardt (1998) suggests we define “youth” as those who are either partly or fully
dependant on others for material support
• Why might this definition be problematic?
• Tyskaa (2014) suggests we understand youth as a transitional stage. (Growing self-
awareness, educational and vocational decisions that lead one away from their family
of origin and towards new relationships and family units). Might this framing be
problematic as well?
• What assumptions might we make about these young people? (insert a couple photos
of sketchy looking teens) where do these stereotypes come from?
• In an article published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers say they've discovered that
the hormone THP, which in adults or younger children acts like a natural tranquilizer,
calming you down, actually increases anxiety during puberty
• What assumptions might we make about these young people? (insert photo of happy
looking healthy kids) Why do imagine these things?
• 1980s: new “youth development movement” emerges
• Young people start to be seen as resilient, full of potential; as “assets” and “resources”
• Youth are not seen as deviant or irresponsible; idea that if given the opportunity, all
youth can make positive, healthy choices and develop “competence, character,
confidence, connection, and caring (model of 5 Cs developed by Richard Lerner)
• Why might viewing youth from this more “positive” perspective be problematic?
• Critiquing the “positivity imperative”