The role of reciprocal relational permanency in intergenerational friendships
: A qualitative study of the Friend for Life approach

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This qualitative longitudinal study concerns the role of ‘Reciprocal Relational Permanence’ in intergenerational friendships. Its focus is the design, development, and delivery of the Friend for Life (FFL) intervention in relation to its potential impacts, processes, and wider social value. Piloted in Blackpool, FFL matches young people in UK government care (ages 10-12) with a volunteer adult. Drawing from Resilient Therapy, adults make a permanent, but non-legally binding commitment to support young people throughout their lives. This research is the first to explore the FFL approach; uniquely following child: adult relationship dyads around the first year of friendship and exploring practices that help and hinder relationship connection and continuity.

This research adopts an Indigenous paradigmatic lens and draws from ecological approaches. Conducted in partnership with the Blackpool community, it considers multimodal evidence (visual and talk based data) from individuals with personal and professional experience with FFL (N=20). These include Visual Mapping Interviews (VMI) and Goal-Based Outcomes (GBO) with Matched Friends (N=8), interviews and focus groups with those working to develop and deliver the FFL project (N=7), and focus groups with wider community members such as foster carers and representatives from social care (N=5). A systematic literature review, conducted on mentoring and befriending both, informs the design of this study, and the interpretation of findings.

Findings revealed six key factors underlying the new construct ‘Reciprocal Relational Permanence’. These factors include: 1) ‘A Strong Bond’: focusing on the bi-directional nature of relationships, 2) a gradual increase in ‘Confidence’, 3) increased opportunities for ‘Socialising’ in diverse environments, 4) improved ‘Social Networks’, 5) improved interpersonal ‘Skills’, and 6) altered ‘Perceptions’ including improved outlook and understanding of the care system. Over time, ‘Reciprocal Relational Permanence’ improves young people’s experiences of interpersonal environments at school and at home, with some young people also experiencing improved emotional and behavioural regulation, and improved treatment from others.

This research finds that ‘Reciprocal Relational Permanence’ can be supported through facilitated interventions. Three factors of such interventions are 1) ‘Choice’: embedding opportunities for young people to choose their friends and how they are supported, 2) ‘Reciprocity’: the promotion of friendship rather than professional support, and 3) ‘Permanency’: the facilitation of mutual on-going commitments. This study uniquely explores challenges experienced by volunteer adults linking to key themes of ‘Scepticism’ and ‘Access’. It recommends greater recognition of how belonging, and agency are structured within young people’s broader cultural and relational connections.
Date of AwardMay 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorAngela Hart (Supervisor), Suna Eryigit-Madzwamuse (Supervisor) & Dr Patricia Castanheira (Supervisor)

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