Living Contradictions: Young people and identities in changing times

Event overview

This first in a new annual lecture series on “Identities in Transition”, in memory of Stephen Thomson.

It is commonplace for analysts to comment on the impact and meaning of rapid social change.  For young people, attention is paid to their dynamic engagement with social media and the contradictions of open social networks and online bullying. Young people have to meet increasingly high levels of accreditation and experience difficulties in finding employment and affording to establish their own households. Migration both links young people’s experiences of their localities and is a key site of difference among them. Equally, young people negotiate smaller-scale contradictions in their interactions and the ways in which they construct their identities.

In this talk, Ann Phoenix will examine such contradictions by drawing on a range of narrative studies of young people, including 11-14 year old boys and masculinities in Helsinki, Finland, and families, young people and environments in India and the UK. Ann will argue that, in changing times, the contradictions that young people live and negotiate both signal social change and impel it. In doing so, they help to distinguish the meanings of homes for different generations and highlight areas of intergenerational change and differences in the way young people are positioned.

Profile shot of Ann PhoenixAnn Phoenix is Professor of Psychosocial Studies at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, Department of Social Sciences, UCL Institute of Education, University of London. From 2016-18 she is the Erkko Professor at the Helsinki University Collegium for Advanced Studies. Her research is mainly about social identities and the ways in which psychological experiences and social processes are linked. It includes work on racialised and gendered identities and experiences; mixed-parentage, masculinities, consumption, young people and their parents, the transition to motherhood, families, migration and transnational families.  Much of her research draws on mixed methods and includes narrative approaches. 

We have established this lecture series in memory of our adoptive son Stephen, or Ste as he liked to be called. 

When he first came to us at the age of eight he had already been in children’s homes and foster care since he was 18 months old. He attended Daleham Gardens for two years and had psychotherapy sessions at the Child and Family Department. When he had come through adolescence, Stephen grew into an attractive and somewhat less angry young man, and by the age of 18 was a father of two. Yet he was always troubled by the legacy of his disturbed early years and sadly he found in alcohol a way to assuage the pain, leading to his untimely death in 2013 at the age of 33.

For further information about his life

Like many adoptive children Stephen had identity issues, to do with moving from a very deprived background to a relatively well-off professional middle class family. We have decided to establish this annual lecture in his memory as a way of addressing such issues in the context of a wider political and policy agenda. Identity politics has become increasingly complex. Issues of class, race, religion, gender, sexuality and age intersect in ways that can sometimes become toxic, and which also makes adolescence and the coming of age story both more protracted and more difficult to negotiate or narrate for increasing numbers of young people. 

The Child and Family and Adolescent Departments of the The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust deal with these identity issues on a daily basis, and have pioneered new ways of thinking about and working through them from a psychoanalytic perspective. So for both personal and professional reasons we are very pleased and grateful that the Trust has agreed to host these events.

We are also delighted that Ann Phoenix has agreed to give the inaugural lecture.  In addition to being a friend of the family, her research work over many years, on non- traditional families and processes of identity formation, has challenged many of the theoretical assumptions and social stereotypes which have informed public perceptions and social policy.

Phil Cohen and Jean McNeil

This lecture is being held on Friday 15th June 2018, from 6.00 - 8.00pm

This event is free to attend, but booking is required.

Book your place now on the Eventbrite website:

Book now.

5th Floor Lecture Theatre

Tavistock Centre

120 Belsize Lane



The Tavistock Centre, London
15 June 2018 18:00 to 20:00

Book your place now on the Eventbrite website:

Book now.

Share this page