‘Like a frog in a well'. A qualitative study of adolescent girls’ life aspirations in Western Nepal

Dónya S. Madjdian*, Elise Talsma, Niva Shrestha, Kenda Cunningham, Maria Koelen, Lenneke Vaandrager

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Adolescents’ aspirations are important for a healthy transition into adulthood. Knowledge about girls’ aspirations and their formation in a low-income context is scant. Framed within life course theory, this qualitative study aimed to understand adolescent girls’ life aspirations, with a specific focus on school, work, family life, health and diets, and explore how aspirations are shaped within girls’ everyday life context, in Nawalpur and Parasi, two districts in the plains of Western Nepal. Data collection involved interviewing 17 adolescent girls (11–19 years) using creative elicitation techniques: timeline drawing and network mapping. Thematic analyses revealed unique aspiration profiles of younger, older, and married adolescent girls. While younger girls were present-oriented and aspired high, older girls balanced aspirations with reality and in turn, adjusted their aspirations. Married women had mostly resigned themselves to their present lives and transferred their lost aspirations onto their children. Findings underscore how girls’ feelings, others in their daily lives, gendered norms, and structural factors, are related to different domains of aspirations during different stages of adolescence. Results give direction to integrated policies and programs that aim to sustain and cultivate adolescent girls’ aspirations at specific stages of adolescence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-729
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number6
Early online date22 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2023


  • Adolescence
  • Aspirations
  • Gender
  • Life course
  • Nepal


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