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The information behaviours of disadvantaged and disengaged adolescents

Buchanan, Steven and Tuckerman, Lauren (2016) The information behaviours of disadvantaged and disengaged adolescents. Journal of Documentation, 72 (3). pp. 527-548. ISSN 0022-0418

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Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to evidence and better understand adolescent information behaviours in disadvantaged and disengaged circumstances, and explore issues of social integration. Design/methodology/approach – Interdisciplinary theoretical framework bringing together theories of information behaviour with theories of social capital. Mixed method design incorporating observation, interviews, and focus group conducted in areas of multiple deprivations. Participants’ young people aged 16-19 not in education, employment or training (NEET); and their support workers. Findings – Heightened access and internalised behavioural barriers found beyond those common to the general adolescent population, the former influenced by technology and literacy issues, the latter by social structures and norms. There is evidence suggestive of deception, risk-taking, secrecy, and situational relevance in information behaviours, and a reliance on bonding social capital characteristically exclusive and inward facing. Low levels of literacy and self-efficacy are significant interrelated issues, with NEET youth dependent upon support workers when seeking and processing information, and demonstrating passive non-motivated information behaviours often abandoned. Research limitations/implications – Highlights the need for further interdisciplinary research to explore complex relations between social and affective factors, and that seeks to both understand and influence information behaviours in disadvantaged and disengaged circumstances. Practical implications – Remedial literacy education recommended as an immediate priority for public and third sector agencies. Originality/value – First study of adolescent information behaviours in disadvantaged and disengaged circumstances. Novel interdisciplinary theoretical framework evidences and draws attention to understudied and enduring information poverty issues of significant societal concern, potentially consigning a significant proportion of the youth population to a stratified existence within an impoverished (small) information world. Sets a focused interdisciplinary research agenda.