Monday, 13 June 2016

Addressing inequalities across the generations

Ahead of her keynote presentation today at our 5th International Conference: Unequal Families and Relationships, Julia Brannen addresses how, in the context of a widening gap in the fortunes of different family generations in Britain today, it is important to examine how parents and their adult children manage inequalities and negotiate relationships.

Sociologists, amongst others, increasingly reflect on the way inequalities remain despite policies and programmes to tackle them. Looking at relationships across the generations in families is a useful way to understand the perpetuation of inequality. In our research we are particularly interested in how changes over time in institutions and cultural practices have influenced different generations’ lives, identities and experiences.

We have pioneered the use of a particular style of biographical narrative approach alongside a research design that involves understanding the perspectives of multiple members of the same families. This approach provides a rigorous framework to understand change and continuity in the transmission of ideas and practices across generations over the long term. It also shows how the different resources held and accessed by families (e.g. time, knowledge, contacts and networks, as well as money) enable and support the construction of different identities. New generations may reject such resources or they may act upon them in new ways within the historical context in which their lives unfold.

Even though relationships between parents and adult children in Western societies can expect to last 20 or even 30 years and longer, they have been subject to little research. By focusing on a family whose life has been marked by migration, our research examines how different generations manage change and inequality. In particular, the research describes the relations between a migrant grandfather and his UK-born adult son.


Julia Brannen is Professor of the Sociology of the Family at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University College London. You can read a brief introduction to her conference presentation Inequality and intergenerational family relationships: methodological and theoretical issues here.

You can follow live tweets from the conference using the hashtag #CRFR2016 on Twitter.

Fathers and Sons: Generations, Families and Migration authored by Julia Brannen is available from Palgrave Macmillan

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