Life Patterns is a mixed-methods, longitudinal study of Australian youth, which means that it follows young people overtime through the collection of survey data and interviews. Studies like Life Patterns are advantageous for understanding change over time because the longitudinal nature of the data means that the same people can be followed overtime. From this, we can understand what has happened to young people since they left school–where they have been and what their hopes and aspirations are for the future. The quantitative data collected from surveys allows us to track young people’s statuses in education, employment, housing, wellbeing and family, which is complemented by qualitative interviews with respondents whose stories provide context and greater meaning to their experiences.

Life Patterns was established in 1991 by Professor Johanna Wyn and Associate Professor Peter Dwyer with the intent of understanding how young people navigated life following the completion of secondary school.  The first cohort of young people, now known as Cohort 1, comprised of 29,155 students who completed school in the Australian state of Victoria. The majority of young people in this cohort were born in 1973 and have been thought of as members of the Generation X cohort. In 1995, a representative sample of around 10,985 respondents from the original cohort was re-surveyed to detail events and experiences about their life since 1992. In 1996, the sample was reduced to 2,000 respondents largely representative of the original sample and since then, the sample has been re-surveyed every two to three years with individual interviews being conducted with 50 to 100 participants.

In 2005, a second cohort of young people or what has become known as Generation Y, born between 1988 and 1989, was established. Originally, 1954 young people who were in Year 11 in secondary schools in New South Wales and Victoria were recruited and surveyed. A further 2,023 Year 11 students from Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) were included in late 2005 to broaden the geographical sampling frame and both sets were merged into one cohort, which is now known as Cohort 2. A top-u sample of 348 young people who were studying at TAFE in ACT, News South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria were added to Cohort 2 in 2009 to counterbalance the heavy representation of tertiary graduates in the original sample. Cohort 2 has been sampled every year since 2006 and a subset of 30 to 50 participants are interviewed every two years since 2007.

A third cohort of young people will be recruited in 2022.


2021 – 2026

Young people shaping livelihoods across three generations (DP210100445).
Investigators: Johanna Wyn, Helen Cahill, Dan Woodman, Hernan Cuervo, Jenny Chesters, Julia Cook, Carmen Leccardi (University of Milan-Bicocoa) and Rachel Brooks (University College London).

2016 – 2020

Learning to make it work: work and wellbeing in young adulthood (DP160101611).
Investigators: Johanna Wyn, Dan Woodman, Helen Cahill and Andy Furlong (University of Glasgow).

2010 – 2015

Young People Negotiating Risk and Opportunity: A reassessment of transition pathways (DP1094132).
Investigators: Johanna Wyn and Lesley Andres (University of British Columbia)

2005 – 2009

Pathways Then and Now: new student transitions to adulthood in a comparative context (DP0557902)
Investigators: Johanna Wyn and Lesley Andres (University of British Columbia)

2002 – 2004

Flexible career patterns: graduate redefinitions of outcomes in the new labour market (DP0209462).
Investigators Johanna Wyn, Peter Dwyer and Lesley Andres (University of British Columbia).

1998 - 2000

Typologies of youth pathways and the vocational integration of 1991-96 post-compulsory education participants in a comparative international context (A79803304).
Investigators: Johanna Wyn and Peter Dwyer.

Meet the research team