One hundred young people, one hundred paths to adulthood – Youth in Time, a qualitative longitudinal study

Kaisa Vehkalahti, Sinikka Aapola-Kari & Päivi Armila (eds.)


Youth in Time is a unique qualitative longitudinal study in Finland. It follows the life paths of around one hundred young people born in 2000, from comprehensive school towards adulthood. The aim of the research project is to produce longitudinal and holistic knowledge about the lives of young people living in different parts of Finland. The longitudinal study was started in the 2015–2016 school year at five research sites with young people in grade 9 of comprehensive school at that time. The aim is to follow the young people’s lives over a ten-year period.

The One hundred young people, one hundred paths to adulthood publication compiles the key themes and results of this extensive study from its first three years. We describe the many dimensions of the lives of young people living in different parts of Finland: their everyday lives, important relationships, leisure time and studies – the major and minor changes along their life paths. We describe their transitions from comprehensive school to upper secondary education and follow the phases in their lives from the age of 15 to the age of majority and slightly beyond.

The young people participating in the study come from localities of various sizes in different parts of Finland, and from diverse social backgrounds. They represent various native languages and religious and ethnic backgrounds. The gender division between girls and boys is almost equal. Most of the young people speak Finnish as their native language, but a significant minority of Swedish-speaking young people is also included, and young people whose native language is other than Finnish or Swedish, some of whom have moved to Finland themselves, while some are the children of parents who have earlier moved to Finland.

The study is implemented using qualitative participatory methods. It highlights the young people’s own voices: they explain what inspires them, what they are worried about, who they rely on for support, and how they see their future. They have shared a great deal about their daily lives, hobbies, education and first experiences of working life with the researchers. The researchers’ analysis highlights how different life can be for young people with different backgrounds in different parts of Finland. Some young people have access to significant resources that support their daily lives and life choices, while others face more challenges and have to work harder for their choices.

The goal of a longitudinal study is always to show processes taking place over time, or at least examine developments between different points in time, and find connections between events taking place along the life path. In young people’s lives in particular, significant changes often take place over a short period of time – changes that cannot be identified in studies focusing on a specific point in time. This is why the longitudinal descriptions of young people’s lives in One hundred young people, one hundred paths to adulthood are particularly fascinating.

The research is being conducted by a group of twelve researchers from the Finnish Youth Research Network and the Universities of Helsinki, Eastern Finland and Oulu. During the study, more than 300 different interviews have been carried out with the young people and adults working with them, and ethnographic observations have been made at the research sites.