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Sociology

Personal life and everyday lives

Research in this cluster takes a sociological look at something we often take for granted: our everyday lives and relationships.

We are interested in researching everyday personal relationships because of their importance to all of us, and because we think they can help us understand connections between individuals and societies.

In this cluster, we research our relationships with families and friends, including marriage, civil partnerships, children's relationships, and what happens when these relationships break down. We explore work-life balance, and whether this is different for men and women.

Projects

Some examples of research from this cluster.

Civil partnerships: a new kind of relationship?

Civil partnerships were introduced in the UK in 2005. This project, led by Prof Brian Heaphy, used in-depth interviews to explore the experiences of young couples who had entered civil partnership, focusing in particular on three key areas: money, sex and family.

Previous research on same-sex relationships has suggested that they may have different characteristics to heterosexual marriage. Data from our project showed that, in contrast, young couples in civil partnership thought of themselves as 'ordinary married' couples, sharing the same expectations and experiences about their relationship as heterosexual couples.

This feeling of 'ordinariness' in the couples we interviewed is interesting because it suggests that they feel their relationships are widely accepted by family and friends as well as law and government policy. Of course, this does not mean that people in same-sex relationships will not face discrimination because of their sexuality. But our data allows us to understand important societal changes in the acceptance of same-sex relationships.

'The Brain' in contemporary society

Dr Andy Balmer is researching how recent advances in neuroscience have affected how we think of our brains (and ourselves) differently. In a new project, as part of his appointment to a prestigious Simon Fellowship from July 2012, he is developing his research to consider what happens when we suffer from brain illnesses, such as Alzheimer's. How do neuroscientists and sufferers understand these diseases?

Families and donor conception

This project investigates how couples who have a baby using donated sperm, eggs or embryos go about telling, or not telling, parents and relatives about their decision to use a donor. As part of the project, the research team (Prof Carol Smart and Dr Petra Nordqvist) have been looking at some high profile court cases where lesbian couples have conceived a child using sperm donated by a friend. These debates are creating legal precedents - what can perspective can sociology add?

Gender differences in work within, and outside, the home

Prof Colette Fagan's work on gender, work and employment highlights areas of persistent gender difference at home and work. Her report to the European Commission reviews research in this area to outline gender differences and explain why they persist. The report also reviews the policies that countries have implemented to reduce gender inequalities, such as changes to parental leave and positive action measures to recruit more men into female-dominated occupations, and assesses how effective these are.

Research centres and groups