Inter/generational dynamics

Inter/generational Dynamics was one of the research projects in Realities, part of the National Centre for Research Methods, funded by the ESRC.

About the project

This project examined interaction and engagement between and within generations, with older people at the centre of the enquiry.

We explore the concept of ‘generation’, asking what it means to older people and to some of the other generations (familial and non-familial) in their lives. We are interested in how inter/ generational dynamics are related both to people’s experiences of personal ageing (bodily, sensory and social) and to their understandings of socio-cultural change.

Key research questions

  • What are the key forms of inter/generational interaction, communication and transfer (familial and non-familial) in which older people are involved?
  • Do people associate themselves with ‘reference groups’ generationally, or inter/generationally? How do they relate this to the experience of ageing?
  • How do older people experience, contribute to, or challenge socio-cultural change through inter/generational interactions in their everyday lives?


This project combines qualitative and quantitative approaches.


We analysed survey data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), which is a large survey examining the lives of older people in England. We used this data to:

  • Map kin and friendship networks;
  • Carry out cluster analyses to identify types of people characterised in terms of social relationships;
  • Examine correlations, using multivariate techniques, between types identified by the cluster analysis and sociodemographic characteristics, experiences, and expectations of ageing and wellbeing.


Based on our cluster analysis of the survey data, we did in-depth qualitative interviews with 25 people who also take part in the ELSA survey.

We interviewed people about their experiences of ageing, their neighbourhoods and their social interactions with family, friends and others. We also asked them to fill in an 'interaction diary', noting who they had contact with for two weeks, before interviewing them again about this diary.

We held a series of focus groups with older people, and the young people they had contact with, facilitated by Manchester City Council's Valuing Older People initiative.


Data from the project has been archived on the UK Data Service ReShare website.

Research team

Stewart Muir, Jennifer Mason, Vanessa May, James Nazroo, Anna Zimdars.

Please contact Jennifer Mason ( with any enquiries.


1 October 2008 to 30 September 2011


We are grateful for the support of the Economic and Social Research Council in funding this project. (RES-576-25-0022)