Pearl Jephcott

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Pearl Jephcott was a pioneer of social research who worked at the University of Glasgow in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Pearl spent most of her life investigating the lives of young people.

Time of One’s Own

In 1967,  Jephcott published Time of One’s Own, a pioneering study of youth leisure in Scotland which captured the social and leisure habits of 15-19 year-olds at a unique point in social – and sociological – history. The study was remarkable for its prescient sociological analysis of youth, but also in its research design and methodology, utilising  a range of innovative visual methodologies (photography and illustration). The study is not only a landmark of youth research, but also a benchmark against which to measure continuity and change in the experiences of young people. Though there have been significant alterations to young people’s work, education, and leisure in Scotland since the 1960s, there are striking continuities in contemporary preferences for street-based leisure, as well as changes. The (Re)Imagining Youth study aims to establish a contemporary baseline for analysing these changes, through a revisit to one of Jephcott’s original fieldsites, giving insight into the impact of social change on youth leisure.

The Situation of Children and Youth in Hong Kong

Jephcott’s pioneering work on the sociology of youth was not simply restricted to Scotland. Jephcott spent a year in Hong Kong – then a British colony – surveying work, leisure and educational conditions for children and young people (Jephcott 1971). Her Hong Kong study represents a detailed overview of the circumstances of youth at a critical point in Hong Kong’s history, in the hiatus between the 1967 youth riots and a wide-ranging programme of reforms in the 1970s. In the study, young people were reported as being committed to work, with leisure very peripheral; reflecting deep-seated Confucian values of filial piety, alongside a manifest need to earn in a manufacture-based economy. Given that compulsory secondary education was not introduced in Hong Kong until the 1970s, there was an expectation of work amongst 14 and 15-year-olds that simply did not inhere in the Scottish case. However, like Scotland, Hong Kong has undergone substantial socio-political and economic change since this time. This has led to some apparent convergences in youth leisure between Scotland and Hong Kong – for example the rise of technology, consumerism, and extended youth transitions – but also a strong distinctiveness, with ‘risky’ leisure activities less apparent in Hong Kong, though youth drug-taking is relatively significant. (Re)Imagining Youth therefore aims to analyse a fieldsite in Hong Kong that will allow for both historical and cross-cultural comparison, allowing for insights relating to the divergent cultural meanings of leisure, consumption and delinquency.

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More information about Pearl Jephcott can be found here:

University of Glasgow biography

infed.org biography

Images from the Time of One’s Own study are available here:

University of Glasgow flickr photos

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