Young People, Biographical Narratives and the Life Grid: Young People's Accounts of Parental Substance Use



Wilson S, Cunningham-Burley S, Bancroft A, Backett-Milburn K & Masters H (2007) Young People, Biographical Narratives and the Life Grid: Young People's Accounts of Parental Substance Use. Qualitative Research, 7 (1), pp. 135-151.

Research into potentially sensitive issues with young people presents numerous methodological and ethical challenges. While recent studies have highlighted the advantages of task-based activities in research with young people, the literature on life history research provides few suggestions as to effective and appropriate research tools for encouraging young people to tell their stories. This paper explores the contribution that may be made to such research by the life grid, a visual tool for mapping important life events against the passage of time and prompting wide-ranging discussion. Critical advantages of the life grid in qualitative research include: its visual element which can help to engage interviewer and interviewee in a process of constructing and reflecting on a concrete life history record; its role in creating a more relaxed research encounter supportive of the respondent’s ‘voice’; and facilitating the discussion of sensitive issues. In addition, the way in which use of the grid anchors such narratives in accounts of everyday life, often revealing interesting tensions, is explored. These points are discussed with reference to an exploratory study of young people’s experience of parental substance use.

narrative; life grid; young people; sensitive issues; parental substance misuse; qualitative methods; task-based methods; resilience; visual tools; life history research; Child welfare; Parents Substance use; Parenting; Research Statistics; Child psychology Research; Experience in children

Qualitative Research: Volume 7, Issue 1

Publication date28/02/2007

People (1)


Dr Sarah Wilson

Dr Sarah Wilson

Senior Lecturer, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology