IOE Inaugural Professorial Lectures Series Read Description

The Power and Perils of Narrative

Making the Best Use of the British Birth Cohort Studies

February 2014
More details
  • Publisher
    UCL IOE Press
  • Published
    6th February 2014
  • ISBN 9781782770749
  • Language English
  • Pages 39 pp.
  • Size 5.5" x 8.25"

Britain is unique in the world in having a portfolio of national birth cohort studies that follow individuals from birth through childhood and into adult life. These studies, the first of which was established in 1946, have already been instrumental in providing evidence relevant to a wide range of policy issues particularly in the areas of health, child development, education, and employment.

In this lecture Jane Elliott uses a vivid narrative case study to illustrate the detailed information that the British
Birth Cohort studies collect about individuals and their circumstances. She draws on an eclectic range of
literature both to give an insight into the types of research that can be conducted using Britain’s unparalleled
portfolio of birth cohort studies, and also to explore the narrative properties of the studies. She argues for the
importance of examining individual life stories in order to complement the detailed quantitative information
collected by the studies, and demonstrates how individual narratives can provide an appealing and compelling way to communicate the findings from quantitative analyses.

She also highlights some of the dangers of focusing only on the individual, and makes a broader case for using narrative methods to understand the social world and the intersubjective structures within which individuals try to make sense of their own lives and experiences.

Jane Elliott

Jane Elliott is the Director of the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, and the Director of the collaborative CLOSER (Cohorts and Longitudinal Studies Enhancement Resources) programme at the Institute of Education, University of London.