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Families across households and generations

  • Location: the accredited SeNSS DTP
  • Duration: three years, beginning in October 2019 and completing in 2022
  • Supervisor: Professor Michaela Benzeval

One of the unique and exciting features of Understanding Society, and BHPS before it, is its household longitudinal design which allows us to understand complex inter-family dynamics – for example, the influence of parents’ behaviours on their children as they grow up, or couples’ employment choices or health experiences on each other over time. However, there has been almost no attention on how the life chances and outcomes that siblings have over their life course reflect their family of origin and/or each other’s. While there are studies that investigate whether being an only child or birth order influence adult characteristics, rarely if ever can they examine all the siblings from the same family as adults. Similarly, while again there are studies of intergenerational transmission of education or intergenerational reciprocity, these are often snapshots, rather than the researcher being able to follow the two generations in parallel over time. This PhD will investigate three broad themes of family dynamics as the different generations move into different households.

  • How the development of the new generation households reflects their parents’ lives and each other’s. Do children’s lives increasingly reflect those of their parents or their siblings as they mature as adults? What characteristics of children or their parents, in childhood or as adulthood, make this more or less likely?
  • As parents mature and age, how does this change the family dynamics across siblings and generations?
  • Does the health and health behaviours of siblings converge or diverge as time from the family of origin progresses? Is this influenced by factors in the family or origin or their new living arrangements?

The PhD will build on the audit of BHPS families included in the bid, which aims to identify family patterns of all BHPS respondents who remain in the study and those have left it. For study leavers, attempts will be made to re-contact and interview them, adding to information available for this PhD project. The student will be able to influence the design of the data collection. The resource development work that accompanies this studentship (i.e. re-engaging with ‘lost’ BHPS members) will be of considerable benefit to a wide range of researchers that use Understanding Society and add significant value to the longitudinal family basis of the study. The student would have the opportunity to shape how this resource is developed and create a coherent programme of research in this area, guided by the supervisor.


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