Research and analysis

Understanding vulnerable young people

This study aimed to improve our understanding of how the problems faced by young people overlap.


The Department for Education (DfE) wants to improve the aspirations and achievement of vulnerable young people. Of interest are young people who experience substance misuse, emotional health concerns, teenage parenthood, low attainment, those who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) and those involved in crime. The department has a wealth of evidence on each of these issues and the ways in which young people are disadvantaged. However, there is less evidence on how these disadvantages overlap for some young people and the outcomes for those affected by multiple disadvantages.

Whilst the experience of a single disadvantage can create difficulties for young people, multiple disadvantages can interact and exacerbate one another, becoming more harmful and costly for both the young person and society as a whole.

This research is also needed to be able to estimate the potential numbers of vulnerable young people most in need of targeted interventions.