Tracking the Gendered Life Courses of Care Leavers in 19th-Century Britain
Longitudinal and life course studies
The adult outcomes of children raised in care are a matter of much concern in Britain today. Care leavers account for a quarter of the adult prison population, a tenth of the young homeless population, and over two thirds of sex workers (Centre for Social Justice, 2015: 4). This article argues that, by contrast, the first generation of boys and girls passing through the early care system were more likely to have experienced a modest improvement in their life chances. It explores three key
... ons. First, what mechanisms shaped adult outcomes of care in the past? Second, did these vary by gender? Third, what might life course approaches to these issues gain from engaging both with historical-and gender-inflected analysis? The article draws on our wider analysis of the life courses and life chances of 400 adults who passed through the early youth justice and care systems as children in the northwest of England from the 1860s to the 1920s. These systems were closely interlinked. Within that, the article focuses on the experiences of a subgroup sent to a more care-oriented institution. It compares their collective outcomes with those of the wider group and within-group by gender. It offers a selection of case studies of women's lives before and after care to highlight the value of, and challenges involved in, undertaking gender analysis in life course research of this kind.