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Life Chances

Life Chances

Stories of growing up in Australia

By Janet Taylor


This book presents the real life stories of five young people who were all born in the same place at the same time and who all seem to be flourishing at age 21 but who have had very different life experiences along the way. The book draws on the findings of the unique Life Chances Study, a longitudinal research project which has followed the lives of a group of young people for 21 years since their birth in inner Melbourne in 1990. The study has explored in detail the impacts of family income and disadvantage for children over time. The wealth of data from the interviews over the years is used to present the young people’s stories from infancy to age 21, both from the perspectives of their parents and, as they grow up, in their own words.

An introductory chapter introduces the stories and the context. This is followed by five detailed life stories and a concluding chapter which reflects on issues of social and economic support for families. The stories include young people from both advantaged and disadvantaged family backgrounds and with parents from different birthplaces (China and Vietnam as well as Australia). They illuminate such diverse aspects of life as the development of ethnic identity, language barriers, career planning, neighbourhood and choice of school.

Life Chances makes an important contribution to understanding inequality and disadvantage in our society. It enables the reader to engage with the lives and thoughts of five families over 21 years and can provide insights into the complexity of individual lives in their wider context.

In the media…


Foreword by Professor Johanna Wyn
About the Author

Debbie’s story
Amy’s story
Tom’s story
Sally’s story
Will’s story

Appendix : The Life Chances Study
Life Chances Study Publications


Janet Taylor’s study of young people growing up in Melbourne is part of a longitudinal study undertaken by the Brotherhood of St Laurence which tracked the lives of 167 babies born in 1990. Reminiscent of the Seven Up series, this important study explores many of the key questions which social workers ponder, relating to how individuals develop and in particular how their opportunities are affected by family finances and security of employment and by their access to housing, education, health care and social support. The stories are told mainly in the words of the young people and their families who participated in the study, exploring the challenges which they faced growing up.
          The Brotherhood of St Laurence was prompted to conduct the study by Bob Hawke’s famous 1987 declaration that “by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty”. 25 years later, this is one of the longest studies of its type in Australia. Taylor’s book provides an in-depth exploration into the lives of five of the young people from the inner suburbs of Melbourne who participated in this study; Debbie, Amy, Tom, Sally and Will were visited by interviewers at ages 6 months, 3 years, 5, 6, 11, 15, 18 and 21. Their stories provide illustration of the effects of poverty, family breakdown, the importance of the welfare system and the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage which can be broken by opportunity. These issues are brought to life by the stories of these young people, and the familiarity of the context and the stories will resonate with many readers.
          On a broader level, these on-going stories provide tangible evidence of the impact of social and economic changes on the lives of individuals and the “life chances” of a generation. Education and a strong connection to significant others emerge as positive influences for the future of these five young people. “Life Chances” provides a fascinating understanding of many of the basic principles of the establishment of the welfare system, whilst teasing out the reality of this in the detail of everyday life.

Glenda Kerridge, Victorian Social Work Connect, August 2015

I'm sure that many of you may have had some time to read the extracts from Life Chances, stories of growing up in Australia, the new book by Janet Taylor from the Brotherhood. It is a very impressive piece of research, an impressive piece study, a longitudinal examination of five Australian families over more than 20 years. The personal stories do contain moments of inspiration and sadness and triumph and setbacks and all the aspects of life that we know so well. It was its concluding arguments, however, that I found most compelling. Taylor's identified four factors, four main factors in the wellbeing of Australian families; adequate income and appropriate Government support, safe, affordable and secure housing, access to affordable health care and an inclusive education system.

The Hon Bill Shorten MP, Speech to the ACOSS Annual Conference, Brisbane_12 June 2014


Kostas Karamarkos_Neos Kosmos, 11 June 2014

Rick Morton_The Australian, 2 June 2014

Readings Monthly May 2014


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Published 14 May 2014
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862879416
Australian RRP $39.95
International Price $35.00
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Family Studies
Social Work

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