Sociological Research Interests
My main research interests are in the sociology of age, gender and generations.
sociology of age and the life course
My main area of research expertise is the sociology of ageing. Over a period of ten years, I have made an important contribution to knowledge about age, a social division which has been relatively neglected by sociology. In particular, my Age and Generation in Modern Britain has established the range of ways age, conceptualised as body age, life course stage and cohort, influences subjectivities and acts to place individuals in positions of structural disadvantage. My contribution to this field can also be found in journal articles and books I have published, where I have made interpretations of theoretical works (specifically that of Karl Mannheim) as well as applying such theory to the interpretation of empirical data.
More recently, I have developed my interest in the sociology of age through a focus on historical constructions of childhood, particularly in relation to health and sex education, and through a study of children’s consumption of clothing and fashion.
sociology of gender
My other area of research expertise lays in the sociology of gender. I have written articles which explore the relations between gender and formal political power, as well as pieces which focus on the gendered division of unpaid work. My book Women in Contemporary Britain emphasises the continuing significance of gender as a social division, albeit one shaped also by class, ethnicity, sexuality and age. With Imelda Whelehan, I have written a critical evaluation of Fifty Key Concepts in Gender Studies.
Within the sociology of gender, my main contribution has been to draw attention to the ways in which age acts to fragment women’s experiences, particularly through cohort processes. This argument is presented in various publications, but particularly in my 1998 book, Women of Their Time. Here, I analysed women’s vocabularies on a range of gender issues and demonstrated that women of different ages do not share the same gendered life courses due to their differing cohort memberships.
Currently, I am interested in women’s family surname choices in the context of greater diversity and flexibility in contemporary personal and family relationships.
funded research and consultancy
In 2002, I was awarded (with C. Pole and T. Edwards) funding from the Economic and Social Research Council/Arts and Humanities Research Board for a study entitled ‘New Consumers? Children, Fashion and Consumption’. Also in 2002, I was awarded a research expenses grant by the The Wellcome Trust’s Unit for the History of Medicine for a study entitled ‘Sex in School Health Education, 1908-1981’.
Other funded research projects I have worked on include a study of women in families of three generations, an evaluation of a careers initiative aimed at schoolgirls, an evaluation of a hospital discharge scheme for elderly patients, and a literature review of young people’s labour market experiences.
I am a sociology consultant, providing expert advice to publishers, print and broadcast journalists and organisations such as the Economic and Social Research Council and the Labour Party. In 2010, I was appointed as the academic sociology
consultant to Genergraphics Inc., a US marketing company specializing in
generational market research, in the publication of their forthcoming