Research Highlights

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The project of general support for youth affairs
"Basic Research Concerning Youth Social Work Theory Construction: Looking for a Philosophy of Ethics Construction in Living Support in the Area Where There Have Been Incidents of Students Murdering Classmates"

Writer: YAMAMOTO, Kohei (College of Social Sciences, Professor)   terms: 2016 6

The necessity and purpose of youth social work research

  Youth social work targeting young people in difficult living situations has practical applications in closely related fields such as youth work and school social work. Youth work has been developed based on pedagogy and social pedagogy, while youth social work and school social work are practices that are being developed with social welfare studies and sociology as their research foundation. Today there is a need to prove that youth social work, which targets young people who are transitioning to participation in society from schools after adolescence, as well as young people transitioning from youth to adulthood, differs distinctly from other such practices as a social welfare practice confronting the problems of young people, and to make clear the value and significance of the existence of this approach.

  Most of the people who emerge as targets of youth social work have encountered difficult to understand events (lives), and are seeking to be released from these struggles. This research examines implementation philosophies and methodologies to enable their putting these struggles behind them.

Targets of youth social work

  Today there is an increasing number of young people facing profound poverty and threats to survival created by various disparities, and who are furthermore experiencing a period of transition in which the connection to others is taken away and independence is made inevitable under an education system and society shaped by neoliberal values and competition. Since the 1980s it has been pointed out that the absence of life motivation and academic motivation, life intelligence and life skills (comprised mainly of employment skills), weakening of the physical abilities that support these traits, weakening of the sense of solidarity and capacity for autonomy, and the increase/earlier appearance of delinquency, suicide at younger ages, increase in refusal to attend school, etc. that are seen in Japanese children as typical of their “developmental alienation,” must be addressed as a crisis of “maintaining the human race.”

2015 Research Overview

  This year, believing there is a need to clarify the state of “developmental alienation” of young people targeted by youth social work, we conducted a survey in a limited area: Sasebo City in Nagasaki Prefecture. Many people were psychologically wounded by an incident in which a high school student murdered a classmate in 2014. We believe that there are some backgrounds in this incident, so we chose this region for our research.

  In our 2015 study, we divided local residents into the following groups and examined whether Sasebo City was an easy place for young people to live: “Mothers and fathers group,” “Actively engaged in initiatives to protect children group,” “Commercial area/business owners group,” “After-school programs for elementary school providers group,” Child/youth supporters group,” and “Young people who were in the upper grades of elementary school in 2004 and are now in their early twenties.” We asked these residents what kinds of initiatives had been undertaken in the ten years between the 2014 incident and an incident in 2004 in which an elementary school student had killed a classmate.

Research results

  The detailed results of our research are now being analyzed. One point that was raised during the survey was that Sasebo City designates June as a “month of focusing on life” for all elementary and middle school children, but the practice of “focusing on life” may have become formulaic or superficial. Members of the “After-school programs for elementary school providers group,” “Child/youth supporters group,” and “Young people group,” also said that Sasebo City had become a more competitive region, and that children were suffering in the midst of this competition. Members of the young people group also mentioned that students at all of the city’s high schools, not only the one at which the incident occurred, were working very hard to get a good result on their university entrance exams, and were in a state in which they “couldn’t comprehend their own stress and fatigue.”

  As part of the backdrop to the 2014 incident, an external inquiry found that “difficulty in doing their jobs” existed for staff at a child counseling center because of “power harassment” [a Japanese term for workplace bullying], and while members of each group said that distrust of official support organs exists among the local residents, “They don’t know where or how to communicate their distrust and dissatisfaction.”

Future tasks

  Our research needs to proceed with bringing the “life” of young people that has been affected by the various challenges they face in their daily lives throughout their development into its field of view. There is also a need to examine the various practices at the “living spaces” these young people need in order to be able to face the survival and development challenges they encounter as they try to transition to adulthood, and the initiatives, laws, and systems that support these efforts.

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