A foster care alumna’s past and present technological experience: A feminist case study approach
Vaterlaus, J. Mitchell
Young, Jimmy A.
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Research on technology use and access among youth raised in non-traditional family structures indicates that the youth’s experiences are different from individuals raised in traditional family structures. Foster care represents a non-traditional family structure that warrants research attention in terms of technology. Using a multicultural feminist framework, the present study explores the past and present technological experience of a woman (30 years old) who was raised in the foster care system. The results are presented as a case study documenting her technological experience in foster care, as she transitioned out of the foster care system, and as she has taken on the roles of wife and mother. Results indicated that the participant had limited access to technology while in the foster care system, and this limited technology access related to her current use and perceptions of technology. Directions for future research are provided. The Millennial generation includes people born between 1980 and 2000, and the title denotes the first generation to come of age during the new millennium (Gurau, 2012). A distinguishing feature of the Millennial generation from previous generations is their “technological exceptionalism. . . It’s not just their gadgets—it’s the way they’ve fused their social lives into them” (Pew Research Center, 2010, p. 6). These new technologies have created a reality where people can connect instantaneously across the globe (Courtois, Mechant, De Marez, & Verleye, 2009). Even Millennials who do not have personal access to new technologies share a culture that is heavily influenced by social technologies (Horst, Herr-Stephenson, & Robinson, 2010). Because Millennials have aged concurrently with the evolution of new technologies, some have posited that they are also “digital natives” (e.g., proficient technology experts) and that the previous generations are immigrants who have difficulty adapting to new technology (Prensky, 2001). These terms, originally presented with only anecdotal evidence, have since been discredited as research has emerged that shows different levels of technological proficiency among Millennials (Bennett, Maton, & Kervin, 2008; Helsper & Eynon, 2010). Socioeconomic status (Robinson, 2009), education (Helsper & Eynon, 2010), gender, and family configuration (Notten, Peter, Kraaykamp, & Valkenburg, 2009) have all been identified as factors that make individual Millennials’ technological experiences unique. Hence, caution must be given when making assumptions about technological experiences of a whole generation and it is important to be “mindful that there are as many differences in attitudes, values, behaviors and lifestyles within a generation as there are between generations” (Pew Research Center, 2010, p. 5). The present study was designed to give voice to the technological experiences of a subsection of the Millennial generation. Hundreds of thousands of children are placed in the foster care system within the United States (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013), and children in foster care are likely to experience several transitions in placements (Strijker, Knorth, & Knot-Dickscheit, 2008). Many of the Millennials who were in the foster care system have now transitioned out of the system and into adulthood. To date, no research is available relating to the perceived influence of foster care on foster care alumni’s technological experiences. As a starting point, this exploratory study sought to identify the current and past technological experiences of one Millennial foster care alumna using case study methodology.
Roche, Cesia, J. Mitchell Vaterlaus, and Jimmy A. Young. "A foster care alumna’s past and present technological experience: A feminist case study approach." Sage Open (August 27, 2015). doi: 10.1177/2158244015584946
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