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Children, young people, families, and personal relationships

hands enclosing baby feet

The Social Policy and Criminology discipline at The Open University has extensive interests in this field and is engaged in a number of lived experience, policy and welfare-related research projects. We are active members of the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance (CCIG) – leading the Families and Relationships Programme and contributing to the Psychosocial Programme. We are also part of the OU’s Children and Young People Research Network.   

Our substantive areas of interest include:

  • meanings and practices of couple relationships 
  • family ‘troubles’
  • bereavement and change
  • parenting, kinship and intergenerational relationships
  • fatherhood
  • intimacy and sexualities in personal lives
  • children’s rights, participation and agency
  • changing service provision for young people with learning disability
  • the emotional dynamics of welfare encounters.

We have an international reputation for methodological innovation, with particular strengths in qualitative mixed methods research, visual methods, biographical and life story research, discourse analysis and historical methods.

Research students connected to this area are encouraged to join CCIG and to participate in the supportive and collegiate research culture in the discipline.

Qualifications available:

PhD or MPhil


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent)

Potential research projects

  • Meanings and experiences of ‘family’, including the ‘normal troubles’ of family lives
  • Meanings and experiences of personal relationships and adult couple relationships in contemporary contexts
  • Death and bereavement as aspects of family and personal change
  • Fatherhood
  • Experiences and understandings of intimacy and sexualities in personal lives
  • Lesbian and gay parenting
  • Absences and silences in policy histories of the family
  • Visual representations of childhood and/or family life
  • The experiences of families with learning disabled children
  • Changing service provision for people with learning disability
  • Policy approaches to the care of children, especially in relation to fostering, adoption and learning disability
  • Explorations of the intersections of children’s lives and welfare provision, both in the past and the present.

Current/recent research projects

  • Creating hard-working, responsible parents: A New Labour structure of feeling?
  • Working at it? Moral, relational and practical aspects of post-coupledom fatherhood
  • Just a bunch of grapes? An ethnographic study of behaviour and attitudes during hospital visiting times

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Dr Janet Fink
+44 (0)1908 654530

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.