Expectation and Everyday Relationships: Young Women Going to University

  • Kirsty Finn

Student thesis: Phd


The thesis explores the experiences of 24 young women from a town in North West England ('Millthorne') as they make their way through their first year of university study. The project is based on a qualitative, longitudinal methodology comprising of three in-depth interviews conducted with each respondent before, during and after the first year of study. The aim of the research was to examine the 'process of relating' (Mason, 2004) for the 24 respondents, in order to think through the ways in which individual actions and identities emerge out of experiences of relationships with kin and non-kin. The project thus contributes to a growing body of literature which attends to the emotional and moral dimensions of social life, and which seeks to challenge ideas around individualism.The public story (Jamieson, 1998) around going to university is one which stresses notions of selfhood, adventure and individualism and so, in the early interviews, respondents expressed a sense of expectation that their identities and relationships would alter significantly once university began. They expected that, by going to university, they would be removed from the clutches of family and that longstanding friend relationships based at home would be replaced by better, more enduring relationships formed within the context of university. The interviews carried out later in the project, however, revealed a divergence between respondents' expectations of kin and non-kin relationships and their real-life, everyday experiences. Significantly, family and longstanding friendships continued to play a central role, leaking into the spaces of university through virtual and imagined as well as tangible means. This meant that respondents did not experience the move to university in the ways they had anticipated and it was not the wrench that many had hoped or feared. What this study demonstrates is the complexity of personal relationships and the ways in which feelings of attachment and relatedness play out in different ways and at different times. Personal relationships are active and dynamic and it is the longitudinal methodology employed in this research which reveals this. Clearly people speak about relationships in particular ways at different junctures in the life course, appealing to discourses of individualism at some points and the security of relationships at others. It is imperative therefore, to capture the richness and complexity of the emotional and the personal, if one is to fully understand the social.
Date of Award31 Dec 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCarol Smart (Supervisor) & Fiona Devine (Supervisor)


  • young women; family; friendship; higher education; emotion

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