Changing lives

Changing Lives: childhood experience, cumulative risk, and supportive environments across the life course

Lucy Bowes and Siân Pooley

‘Changing Lives’ focuses on children who experience the most significant forms of adverse experience, from socio-economic deprivation to discrimination and violence. Our aim is to investigate how families, peers, communities, and the state make a difference to people’s lives. We are particularly interested in the complex and diverse impacts of both harmful and supportive relationships, measured in the short- and long-term. ‘Changing Lives’ is an interdisciplinary project that innovatively brings together the complementary strengths of research from medical sciences and humanities to ask new questions about how experience affects the unfolding of human lives.

Three cross-disciplinary themes characterise our research:

• Evaluating the impact of policies and interventions on young people’s lives
• Placing children’s experiences and perspectives at the centre of research
• Examining inequalities in childhood and cumulative disadvantage across the life-course

We are grateful for funding from the Wellcome Trust, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and the Calleva Foundation.

Relevant publications by project members

Carolina Guzman Holst and Lucy Bowes, ‘Bullying and Internalizing Symptoms’, in Peter K. Smith and James O’Higgins Norman (eds), The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Bullying: A comprehensive and international review of research and intervention (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2021), Chapter 31.

Siân Pooley and Jonathan Taylor (eds), Children’s experiences of welfare in modern Britain (London: University of London Press, 2021).

Jonathan Taylor, ‘“The Borough Council have done a great deal … I hope they continue to do so in the future”: children, community and the welfare state, 1941-55’, in Siân Pooley and Jonathan Taylor (eds), Children’s experiences of welfare in modern Britain (London: University of London Press, 2021), Chapter 6.

Michelle Degli Esposti, Snehal M. Pinto Pereira, David K. Humphreys, Richard D. Sale, and Lucy Bowes, ‘Child maltreatment and the risk of antisocial behaviour: A population-based cohort study spanning 50 years’, Child abuse & neglect, 99 (2020), 104281.

Jonathan Taylor, ‘“[Her] hostess … is anxious to have her back when she is cured”: The impact of the evacuation of children on wartime local services, England, 1939–1945’, Medical Humanities, 46 (2020), 44-153.

Michelle Degli Esposti, David K Humphreys, Benjamin M Jenkins, Antonio Gasparrini, Siân Pooley, Manuel Eisner, and Lucy Bowes, ‘Long-term trends in child maltreatment in England and Wales, 1858–2016: an observational, time-series analysis’, The Lancet Public Health, 4: 3 (2019), 148-158.

Michelle Degli Esposti, Jonathan Taylor, David K. Humphreys, and Lucy Bowes, ‘iCoverT: A rich data source on the incidence of child maltreatment over time in England and Wales’, PLoS ONE, 13: 8 (2018).

Knowledge exchange, public engagement, and events

Care in the time of COVID’, led by Rosie Canning, Aoife O’Higgins, and Jonathan Taylor in 2020. ‘Care in the time of Covid’ received submissions from nearly 200 people from across the United Kingdom who have care experience. More than 170 participants opted to share their anonymised contributions with future researchers. These diary submissions, along with participants’ questionnaire responses, will be deposited with the UK Data Service.

By sharing expertise with Magdalen College Oxford, the College was able to introduce new policies to support care-experienced students and to establish an outreach programme with Oxfordshire Virtual School for Looked After Children and Care Leavers. The collaboration was led by Aoife O’Higgins and Siân Pooley in 2020.

A workshop, convened by Siân Pooley and Jonathan Taylor in 2020, shared new historical research on ‘Children’s experiences of welfare in modern Britain’. The event formed the starting point of an edited book published in 2021.

In 2018, Lucy Bowes and Siân Pooley were invited to give the keynote lecture at the NSPCC and BASPCAN (now the Association of Child Protection Professionals) Child protection trainer of the year conference on ‘Inspiring good practice through training’.

Conference papers, posters and presentations

‘“So they automatically put a label on yer”: Disability and mainstream education in England, 1945-1970′, conference paper by Samantha McCormack, presented at ‘The Intellectual Lives of Children’ colloquium, Oxford University (2021)

‘The impact of school-based antibullying interventions of internalizing symptoms: A systematic review and metanalysis’, conference paper by Carolina Guzman Holst, presented at World Anti-bullying Forum, Stockholm, Sweden (2021)

‘”Well, the major thing for me about school then was that I wasn’t there a great deal”: disability and educational inequality in post war England’, conference paper by Samantha McCormack, presented at the Society for History of Childhood and Youth annual conference (2021)

‘Care in the time of COVID’, conference paper by Rosie Canning and Aoife O’Higgins, presented at the International Network on Transitions to Adulthood from Care (INTRAC) (2021)

‘Childhood experiences of disability and specialist provision in England, 1918-1970’, seminar paper by Samantha McCormack, presented at the Centre for the History of Childhood, Oxford University (2020)

‘“The Borough Council have done a great deal … I hope they continue to do so in the future”: Children, Community and the Welfare State, 1935-1955’, conference paper by Jonathan Taylor, presented at workshop on Children’s Experiences of Welfare, Oxford University (2020)