Assembling life history narratives from quantitative longitudinal panel data: what’s the story for families using social work?

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2017


Embedded within quantitative longitudinal panel or cohort studies is narrative potential that is arguably untapped but might enrich our understanding of individual and social lives across time. This paper discusses a methodology to assemble the life history narratives of families using social work by drawing on quantitative data from the British Household Panel Survey. It explores whether this person-centred approach helps us to understand the counterintuitive results of a parallel multivariate analyses, which suggest that families using social work fare worse than similar others over time. Our findings are tentative, due to the experimental use of this narrative method and the limits of social work information in the dataset. Nonetheless, the life histories presented bring to light complexities, diversity and the non-linear pathways between families’ needs, support and outcomes that the aggregates obscure. We conclude that reconstructing families’ lives in this way, especially in the absence of complementary longitudinal qualitative data, affords the wider opportunity to interrogate and better understand the findings of quantitative longitudinal studies.

Published in

International Journal of Social Research Methodology







Not held in Hilary Doughty Research Library - bibliographic reference only

Forthcoming - Accepted



Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest