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Professor Jacqui Gabb

Profile summary

Professional biography

I joined The Open University in 2004 as a Staff Tutor and lecturer in Sociology. After moving to the Department of Social Policy and Criminology (SPC), I worked on research methods and family studies curriculum. I was appointed as the Associate Dean for Research in the Faculty of Social Sciences (2014-2016) and am now Professor of Sociology and Intimacy in SPC.

Before joining the OU, I worked in the Centre for Applied Childhood Studies (University of Huddersfield), the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies (University of Leeds) and the Department of Sociology and Gender Studies (University of Hull). I started academic life in the School of Media (University of Humberside). I have a PhD Women’s Studies/Sociology from the University of York (2002).

My research and innovative impact activities have been recognised by three prestigious awards: the BSA Philip Abrams Memorial prize (2009) for best sole-authored first book in Sociology, the Open University Engaging Research Award (2014), the Evelyn Gillian Research Impact Award (2016). 

I am the 'Tackling Iinequalities' Lead for Open Societal Challenges, coordinating research activities in this area across the university. I was previously Co-Director for the Citizenship and Governance strategic research area, leading the Gender, Intimacies, Sexuality (GENIES) research stream, and Co-Director of the Families, Relationships and Communities Programme in the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance (CCIG).

I am currently seconded (part-time) to work as the Chief Relationships Officer with Paired on a new app for couples. Drawing upon Enduring Love? study findings, the app significantly extends the impact and public engagement of this research. The app is designed to improve communication and deepen intimacy through daily interactions.

Research interests

I am interested in exploring interdisciplinary approaches for researching and theorizing intimacy and personal relationships, working in the fields of Family and Sexuality Studies. I also have established interests in mixed methods and multiple qualitative methods research. I have completed RCUK-funded projects on couple relationships, lesbian parenthood, intimacy and sexuality in families, and post-divorce fatherhood. I am currently completing a Wellcome Trust (UNS39780) project on LGBTQ youth and mental health with Liz McDermott (Lancaster University). My recent ESRC-funded study on long-term couple relationships Enduring Love? (RES-063-23-3056) has received awards for impact and widespread critical acclaim, with findings being reported in the national and international media, and published in academic, self-help, relationship support and educational formats.  

Recent doctoral research student supervision includes:

Rochelle Mallet (current), Combining queer theory and children’s rights: a case study of early years practitioners’ approaches to gender in the early years learning environment

Amy Dean (current), Young people and sex education

Tom Witney (2020), Same-sex couples in serodiscordant partnerships in the UK

Olga Plakhotnik (2019), Queer kinship: sexual citizenship in Ukraine

Danni Pearson (2015), The trials, tribulations and celebrations of long-term, same-sex partner relationships

Thierry Chessum (2015), Graphic interrogation in psychosocial research: comics AND Deleuze AND middle-aged men

I welcome applications from new students in areas related to my research interests including studies on families, personal relationships, intimacy, emotions, sexuality and gender.

Teaching interests

My teaching time at The Open University is focused on the development and production of postgraduate curriculum, particularly research methods. I am currently working with colleagues on a module in production, DD215 Social research: crime, justice and society.

I was Module Team Chair (production) of Introduction to quantitative and qualitative research methods (D849). I have been module team chair of Investigating the Psychological World (D821) and Investigating the Social World (D822), and a module team member of Research methods dissertation in social sciences (D845). I also contributed to the third level sociological module Making Social Worlds (DD308) - writing the chapter on 'Family Attachments' in one of the core texts.

Impact and engagement

The Enduring Love? study investigated how couples experience and understand their long-term relationships. Media coverage of the launch of study findings featured on national and international live and pre-corded television and radio, including: BBC World News, BBC Four News and CNN. There was extensive coverage in print and online media, including: the New York Post (USA), LA Times (USA), Le Point (France), The Age (Australia), South China Morning Post, Pink News, and all major UK newspapers. Findings continue to inform debate on couple diversity and the ways that relationships endure over the life course.

I am currently seconded to Paired as the Chief Relationships Officer, working on a new app for couples that is designed to strengthen their partnerships. The app has been particularly informed by my research and findings of the Enduring Love? study. It combines daily tips from clinical psychotherapists and academics with fun questions and quizzes, underpinned by longer in-depth courses. 

In the policy arena, I have been invited to participate in all-party parliamentary briefings, receptions and consultation events. Research evidence has been presented to government departments (DfE, DWP and The Treasury) and parliamentary policy making groups (Centre for Social Justice and Labour Policy Review), enabling them to refine their understandings of family and relationship support.

Findings have been disseminated to frontline relationship support staff through conference and workshop presentations, and in collaboration with family systemic psychotherapists, the emotion map research method has been adapted for use in clinical practice as part of the clinical assessment toolkit.

In collaboration with Brook, we have ‘translated’ findings into online relationship information resources for young people and an eLearning teaching pack designed for teachers for use in schools as part of sex and relationship education (SRE). Launched at the House of Commons (13/09/16) these materials are designed to enable young people to learn about how relationships work and thus develop more realistic expectations that can be fulfilled.

Findings have also been published for a general readership in a self-help handbook The Secrets of Enduring Love (Penguin, Random House, 2016) and in a series of films The Art of Relationships. Academic publications include Couple Relationships in the 21st Century (Palgrave, 2015).

External collaborations

I was Co-editor (2010-2016) of Families, Relationships, Societies and now serve as an Editorial Management Board member on this international journal published by Policy Press. Other editorial roles include: Chair of the Editorial Board for the journal Sociological Research Online (2008-2011), Associate Editorial Board member for Sociology (2008-2010), and Editorial Assistant of Feminist Theory (1998-2001).

I have held executive positions in learned societies including Trustee for the British Sociological Association and co-convenor of the BSA Families and Relationships Study Group (2008-2011). I was an Executive Committee Member for the Feminist and Women's Studies Association (2007-2010), during which time I established the highly successful annual Palgrave Macmillan FWSA Book Prize.

I hold roles on several national funding bodies, including a serving member on the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Grants Assessment Panel (GAP) B, an invited member of the ESRC peer review college, and review panel member for Nordic Research Councils in the Humanities & Social Sciences (NOS-HS)


Configuring the digital relationship landscape: a feminist new materialist analysis of a couple relationship app (2024)
Witney, Tom; Gabb, Jacqui; Aicken, Catherine; DiMartino, Salvo and Lucassen, Mathijs
Families, Relationships, Societies ((Early access))

More–than–relationship quality: A feminist new materialist analysis of relationship quality and the potential of digital couple interventions (2023-12)
Gabb, Jacqui; Aicken, Catherine; Di Martino, Salvatore; Witney, Tom and Lucassen, Mathijs
Journal of Family Theory & Review, 15(4) (pp. 685-705)

The relationship work of sexual intimacy in long-term heterosexual and LGBTQ partnerships (2022)
Gabb, Jacqui
Current Sociology, 70(1) (pp. 24-41)

Family Trouble: Heteronormativity, emotion work and queer youth mental health (2021-03-01)
McDermott, Elizabeth; Gabb, Jacqui; Eastham, Rachel and Ali, Hanbury
Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 25(2) (pp. 177-195)

Working with group-level data in phenomenological research: a modified visual matrix method (2021)
Langdridge, Darren; Gabb, Jacqui and Lawson, Jamie
Qualitative Research in Psychology, 18(2) (pp. 271-293)

Paradoxical family practices: LGBTQ+ young people, mental health and wellbeing (2020-12-01)
Gabb, Jacqui; McDermott, Elizabeth; Eastham, Rachael and Hanbury, Ali
Journal of Sociology, 56(4) (pp. 535-553)

Relationship Quality and Sexuality: A Latent Profile Analysis of Long-term Heterosexual and LGB Long-term Partnerships (2020)
Chonody, Jill M.; Killian, Mike; Gabb, Jacqui and Dunk-West, Priscilla
Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 17(2) (pp. 203-225)

It’s raining cats, dogs and diapers! The intersections of rising pet ownership and LGBTQ+ coupledom (2019-07-01)
Gabb, Jacqui
Families, Relationships, Societies, 8(2) (pp. 351-357)

Art as a pathway to impact: Understanding the affective experience of public engagement with film (2019-05-01)
Langdridge, Darren; Gabb, Jacqui and Lawson, Jamie
The Sociological Review, 67(3) (pp. 585-601)

Understanding the Role of Relationship Maintenance in Enduring Couple Partnerships in Later Adulthood (2019)
Chonody, Jill M. and Gabb, Jacqui
Marriage & Family Review, 55(3) (pp. 216-238)

Conducting sexualities research: an outline of emergent issues and case studies from ten Wellcome-funded projects (2019)
Kneale, Dylan; French, Robert; Spandler, Helen; Young, Ingrid; Purcell, Carrie; Boden, Zoë; Brown, Steve D.; Callwood, Dan; Carr, Sarah; Dymock, Alex; Eastham, Rachael; Gabb, Jacqui; Henley, Josie; Jones, Charlotte; McDermott, Elizabeth; Mkhwanazi, Nolwazi; Ravenhill, James; Reavey, Paula; Scott, Rachel; Smith, Clarissa; Smith, Matthew; Thomas, James and Tingay, Karen
Wellcome Open Research, 4, Article 137

Measuring Relationship Quality in an International Study: Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Validity (2018-11-01)
Chonody, Jill M.; Gabb, Jacqui; Killian, Mike and Dunk-West, Priscilla
Research on Social Work Practice, 28(8) (pp. 920-930)

Unsettling lesbian motherhood: Critical reflections over a generation (1990-2015) (2018-10-01)
Gabb, Jacqui
Sexualities, 21(7) (pp. 1002-1020)

Editorial introduction to Special Issue: Queer Kinship and Relationships (2018-10-01)
Mizielińska, Joanna; Gabb, Jacqui and Stasińska, Agata
Sexualities, 21(7) (pp. 975-982)

Understanding Everyday Relationship Work: The Development of a Relationship Maintenance Scale (2017)
Chonody, Jill M.; Killian, Mike; Gabb, Jacqui and Dunk-West, Priscilla
Advances in Social Work, 17(2) (pp. 355-368)

Telling moments and everyday experience: multiple methods research on couple relationships and personal lives (2015-10)
Gabb, Jacqui and Fink, Janet
Sociology, 49(5) (pp. 970-987)

Reflections on the challenges of understanding racial, cultural and sexual differences in couple relationship research (2015-04)
Gabb, Jacqui and Singh, Reenee
Journal of Family Therapy, 37(2) (pp. 210-227)

The uses of emotion maps in research and clinical practice with families and couples: methodological innovation and critical inquiry (2015-03)
Gabb, Jacqui and Singh, Reenee
Family Process, 54(1) (pp. 185-197)

Growing intimate privatepublics: Everyday utopia in the naturecultures of a young lesbian and bisexual women’s allotment (2014)
Moore, Niamh; Church, Andrew; Gabb, Jacqui; Holmes, Claire; Lee, Amelia and Ravenscroft, Neil
Feminist Theory, 15(3) (pp. 327-343)

Configuring generations: cross-disciplinary perspectives (2014)
Fink, Janet and Gabb, Jacqui
Families, Relationships and Societies, 3(3) (pp. 459-463)

Embodying risk: managing father–child intimacy and the display of nudity in families (2013-08-09)
Gabb, Jacqui
Sociology, 47(4) (pp. 639-654)

Family lives and relational living: taking account of otherness (2011-11)
Gabb, Jacqui
Sociological Research Online, 16, Article 10(4)

Introduction to critical concepts: families, intimacies and personal relationships (2011-11)
Gabb, Jacqui and Silva, Elizabeth
Sociological Research Online, 16(4)

Home truths: ethical issues in family research (2010)
Gabb, Jacqui
Qualitative Research, 10(4) (pp. 461-478)

Researching family relationships: a qualitative mixed methods approach (2009)
Gabb, Jacqui
Methodological Innovations Online, 4(2) (pp. 37-52)

Locating lesbian parent families (2005-12)
Gabb, Jacqui
Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 12(4) (pp. 419-432)

Lesbian M/Otherhood: strategies of familial-linguistic management in lesbian parent families (2005-10-01)
Gabb, Jacqui
Sociology, 39(4) (pp. 585-603)

'I could eat my baby to bits'; passion and desire in lesbian mother-children love (2004-09)
Gabb, Jacqui
Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 11(3) (pp. 399-415)

Critical differentials: querying the incongruities within research on lesbian parent families (2004-05)
Gabb, Jacqui
Sexualities, 7(2) (pp. 167-182)

Sexuality education: how children of lesbian mothers 'learn' about sex/uality (2004-04)
Gabb, Jacqui
Sex Education, 4(1) (pp. 19-34)

Querying the discourses of love: an analysis of contemporary patterns of love and the stratification of intimacy within lesbian families (2001-08)
Gabb, Jacqui
European Journal of Women's Studies, 8(3) (pp. 313-328)

The Secrets of Enduring Love: How to Make Relationships Last (2016-02-04)
Barker, Meg-John and Gabb, Jacqui
ISBN : 978-1785040238 | Publisher : Vermilion | Published : London

Couple Relationships in the 21st Century (2015-03-10)
Gabb, Jacqui and Fink, Janet
Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life
ISBN : 978-1-137-43442-5 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : London

Researching Intimacy in Families (2008)
Gabb, Jacqui
Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life
ISBN : 978-0-230-52722-5 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke, UK

Working with group-level data in phenomenological research: A modified visual matrix method (2021)
Langdridge, Darren; Gabb, Jacqui and Lawson, Jamie
In: Reavey, Paula ed. A Handbook of Visual Methods in Psychology: Using and Interpreting Images in Qualitative Research (Second Edition) (pp. 301-322)
ISBN : 9781138491793 | Publisher : Routledge

Qualitative Research on LGBTQ-Parent Families (2020-04-04)
Gabb, Jacqui and Allen, Katherine
In: Goldberg, Abbie and Allen, Katherine eds. Qualitative Research on LGBTQ-Parent Families
ISBN : 978-3-030-35609-5 | Publisher : Springer

To have and to hold? The relationality of emotions and couples' relationships in twenty-first-century Britain (2019-10-31)
Fink, Janet and Gabb, Jacqui
In: Barclay, Kate; Meek, Jeffrey and Thomson, Andrea eds. Courtship, Marriage and Marriage Breakdown: Approaches from the History of Emotion. Routledge Research in Gender and History (pp. 207-221)
ISBN : 9780367424558 | Publisher : Routledge

Measuring relationship quality in an international study (2018-04-05)
Chonody, Jill M.; Gabb, Jacqui; Killian, Mike and Dunk-West, Priscilla
In: Dunk-West, Priscilla and Hafford-Letchfield, Trish eds. Sexuality, Sexual and Gender Identities and Intimacy Research in Social Work and Social Care: A Lifecourse Epistemology (pp. 121-133)
ISBN : 9781138225879 | Publisher : Routledge

Qualitative Research: Methods and Methodology (2016)
Gabb, Jacqui
In: Goldberg, Abbie E. ed. The SAGE Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Studies (pp. 895-900)
Publisher : Sage

Qualitative Research on LGBT-Parent Families (2012-10)
Gabb, Jacqui
In: Goldberg, Abbie and Allen, Katherine eds. LGBT-Parent Families: Innovations in Research and Implications for Practice
ISBN : 1461445558 | Publisher : Springer | Published : New York

The affect of methods (2012-05-09)
Gabb, Jacqui
In: Hines, Sally and Taylor, Yvette eds. Sexualities: Past Reflections, Future Directions (pp. 32-51)
ISBN : 9780230290099 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke

Troubling displays: the affect of gender, sexuality and class (2011-08)
Gabb, Jacqui
In: Dermott, Esther and Seymour, Julie eds. Displaying Families: a New Concept for the Sociology of Family Life. Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life (pp. 38-60)
ISBN : 978-0-230-24613-3 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke

Affective attachment in families (2008)
Gabb, Jacqui
In: Redman, Peter ed. Attachment: Sociology and social worlds (pp. 19-50)
ISBN : 9780719078125 | Publisher : Manchester University Press | Published : Manchester, UK

Focus: Families and relationships across crises (2017-05-02)
Gabb, Jacqui and de Jong, Sara
Discover Society, 44