Group members

Tim Fowler

Lecturer in Political Theory, Sociology, Politics and International Studies.

Tim’s PhD dealt with the issue of with parental rights, and particularly whether parents have rights to send their children to religious schools. My work concerns the ethics of intergenerational relations, including the rights of parents, children’s place in democracy and the obligations of current generations to future generations.

Emma Hitchings

Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Bristol Law School.

Emma's main research interests lie in the field of family law and in particular, financial provision on divorce. Currently, Emma is involved with a funded research project with Joanna Miles (Cambridge University) to undertake empirical research into final settlements in financial remedy cases following the research gaps identified in the Final Report of the Family Justice Review. The first report from this project focused on the 'how, when and why' of settlement and was published in November 2013. The next phase of the project, due to be progressed in 2015, will examine the content of settlements reached.

Her other recent empirical work in the financial remedy field has included a project investigating family solicitors' responses to the impact of leading ancillary relief jurisprudence in the 'everyday case' and two empirical research projects into how practitioners advise clients where a marital (or civil partnership) property agreement was required (funded by the Law Commission). 

Most recently Emma has been involved with a research project investigating litigants in person in private family law cases as part of a Consortium (led by Professor Liz Trinder – Exeter) and funded by the Ministry of Justice. The group carried out a study to develop the existing evidence base on the range of self-represented persons in private cases, their behavioural drivers and their impact on the court system. The research report was published by the Ministry of Justice in November 2014.

Liz Washbrook

Lecturer in the Centre of Multi-Level Modelling. School of Education.

Liz’s background is in economics and statistics, and her research uses secondary analysis of large-scale datasets to explore a number of aspects of family decision-making. One strand focuses on the relationships between public policies, parental employment, family resources and child care in the early childhood period. Another strand focuses on the association between parental social class and children’s educational outcomes, and explores the mediating role of parenting behaviours and other aspects children’s home environments. Liz has worked on a number of international comparative projects in this area, drawing on data from the UK, the US, Canada and Australia.

Melanie Griffiths

ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellow, Sociology, Politics and International Studies.

Titled Deportability and the Family: Migrant Men's Negotiations of the Right to Respect for Family Life, Melanie’s research looks at the intersection of immigration enforcement and the family, in the context of the Immigration Act 2014 and ongoing discourses around ‘sham’ marriages and the Article 8 (right to respect for a private and family life) rights of foreign nationals. Working with UK-based men who are at risk of removal or deportation, who have British or EEA national partners or children, the project seeks to explore the family life experiences of those with precarious immigration status. It also examines the perspectives of British citizens, who are not themselves subject to immigration controls, but whose intimate lives are challenged by political immigration objectives.

Russ Jago

Professor of Paediatric Physical Activity & Public Health, School for Policy Studies.

Russ’s research focuses on how parents and families are associated with children and young people’s physical activity and screen-viewing. Recent work has included how parenting styles and parenting practices have been associated with both physical activity and screen-viewing in pre-school, primary and secondary school-aged youth. We have also developed and piloted a physical activity and screen-viewing parenting programme for 6-8 year old children which shows considerable promise as an effective means of helping parents to change their children’s behaviour. In terms of future research, I am interested in how parents and families influence children’s physical, activity, screen-viewing and dietary behaviours and how we can work with families to help children to be more active more often.

Esther Dermott

Reader in Sociology, Sociology, Politics and International Studies.

Esther’s research is on families, parenting, intimacy, poverty, inequality and gender. She has a longstanding research interest in fatherhood examining the culture and conduct of fatherhood in the UK drawing on qualitative and quantitative methods. Recent work in this area includes a British Academy funded project on post-separation fathering  and a special issue on contemporary fatherhood for Families, Relationships and Societies. More broadly she is interested how best to understand contemporary parenting culture and measure ‘good’ parenting.  Her most recent published work has focused on: the policy discourse on parenting and poverty; quantitative analysis of the relationships between parenting practices, poverty and education; and comparative analysis of parenting policies in Japan and the UK. She is currently analysing the relationship between family form, parenting and poverty using the ESRC Poverty and Social Exclusion study and is undertaking comparative research on good parenting between Japan and the UK.

Simon Sebire

Lecturer in Physical Activity & Exercise Psychology, School for Policy Studies.

Simon investigates parenting in the context of children's physical activity and sedentary behaviour (e.g., screen-time). He conducts both quantitative and qualitative research in this area in addition to developing and evaluating physical activity-based parenting interventions with my colleague in The Centre for Exercise, Nutrition & Health Sciences, Prof Russ Jago. His quantitative work has explored the associations between parenting practices and parenting styles and physical activity and psychological constructs (e.g., motivation) using objective measures of parenting and physical activity. We have also explored the associations between parent and child activity and screen-time behaviours. His qualitative work has focussed on children's perceptions of how their parents could best support their increased physical activity or reduced sedentary time. Prof Jago and I currently supervise a student who is researching the role of fathers in family physical activity. Our work into parenting has been funded by the British Heart Foundation.

Debbie Watson

Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies, School for Policy Studies.

Debbie’s interests are primarily in children's wellbeing and identities in diverse contexts and forms and the interactions between family wellbeing and childhood experiences- particularly for children growing up in impoverished and challenging contexts. She is interested in support provided for children and families and the policy discourses that surround welfare provisions for children and families and how these challenge critical feminist perspectives on, particularly the role of mothers and the experiences of motherhood, as they stigmatise and isolate some families in society- such as the poorest, young and single parents.

Julie Selwyn

Professor in Child and Family Social Work, School for Policy Studies.

The Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies. The Centre’s focus is on children who are unable to live with their birth parents and who need substitute long-term family care. Our current research includes:

  • An analysis of the UK Census to estimate the extent of and characteristics of kinship carers (ESRC funded
  • Beyond the Adoption Order – an investigation of adoptive placements that had disrupted and those in crisis.  In depth interviews with parents ( DfE and Welsh government funded )
  • Compassion fatigue – investigation of the prevalence of secondary trauma among foster carers and an evaluation of an intervention designed to ameliorate symptoms ( agency funded) 
  • Matching – developing the evidence base for matching the needs of children with their adoptive parents’ capacities ( DfE funded) 

We are also involved in 'direct work' with adoptive parenting support groups providing training, email support, and  signposting to services and provide similar services for social workers working with families.

Judith Masson

Professor of Socio-legal Studies, University of Bristol Law School.

Judith’s work is in child law, particularly empirical studies on the intersection of law and social work in child protection, child care and adoption, using mixed methods including analysis of court files and other legal records, observations of professional encounters, meetings and court hearings and interviews. This work is supported by contextual analysis of law and policy in England and Wales and a range of other jurisdictions, using more traditional legal methods. Her current work focuses on reform to child protection proceedings, the impact of these reforms on legal process, decision making and outcomes for children. Earlier work has examined step-parent adoption; representation of children in child protection proceedings: Out of Hearing (1999); partnership with parents of looked after children Lost and Found (1999); and emergency child protection intervention: Protecting Powers (2007); care: Care Profiling Study (2008): legal representation of parents in care proceedings: Pearce et al, Just following Instructions? (2011); and the operation and impact of the pre-proceedings process for care proceedings: Partnership by law? (2013) She has been a specialist adviser for Parliamentary Committees and a member of the Judicial Studies Board. From 2004-2011 she was the academic member of the Family Justice Council.

Beth Tarleton

Senior Research Fellow in the Norah Fry Research Centre, School for Policy Studies.

Beth co-ordinates the Working Together with Parents Network which supports professionals, from all backgrounds, who are working with adults with a learning difficulty or learning disability who are parents ( This network aims to promote positive practice and engagement with the issue at policy level.  Beth has been undertaking research and evaluation of services for parents with learning difficulties/disabilities since 2005 and is promoting the idea of ‘parenting with support’ which recognises that parents with learning difficulties often need long-term, individually tailored support to ensure the welfare of their children.

Katharine Charsley

Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Sociology, Politics and International Studies.

Katharine’s main research interests are in gender, the family and migration, particularly in the field of cross-border marriages. She currently leads an ESRC-funded study on 'Marriage Migration and Integration'. She has recently published two volumes: an edited book 'Transnational Marriage' (Routledge 2012), and her monograph ‘Transnational Pakistani Connections: Marrying “Back Home”’ based on ethnographic research (Routledge 2013). She is preparing a special issue (with Helena Wray, Middlesex) titled 'The Invisible (Migrant) Man' for Men and Masculinities. The report 'Marriage-related migration to the UK' (International Migration Review 2012) also appeared as a Home Office occasional research paper (No. 94). She founded and convenes a research network on ‘Marriage and Migration’.

Patricia Lucas

Senior Lecturer in Policy Studies, School for Policy Studies.

Patricia’s primary research interests are in the reduction of inequalities in health and wellbeing in early childhood.  The role of parents in the health of their children is central to my work; most children live in families so understanding how parents understand and act to protect their children's health is crucial.  Her background is in Psychology and this informs her approach to her work as a behavioural scientist.  She is interested in mixed methods approaches, combining qualitative and quantitative data in systematic reviews and in primary research to inform policy decisions.  She often works within interdisciplinary teams and has collaborated with colleagues across Medicine, Engineering, Law, and Arts and was a member of the University of Bristol's Institute for Advanced Studies for 5 years.

Junko Yamashita

Lecturer in Contemporary Japanese Society, Sociology, Politics and International Studies.

Junko’s research expertise can be mapped around the intersection of social policy, sociology and gender studies. She is concerned with using comparative analysis of East Asian and European welfare states. Her current research explores the interaction of care policy, the evaluation of care work, the division of care labour market and gender. Recent publications and research funding has included comparative analysis of parenting in family policies in Japan and the UK and analysis of family-centred care regimes in East Asia. She also has a long-term interest in civil society, particularly the roles and functions of non-profit organisations (NPOs) and people participating in their activities.

Maud Perrier

Lecturer in Sociology, Sociology, Politics and International Studies.

Maud has written about feminist theory and pedagogy, emotions and contemporary families and uses psychosocial and arts based methodologies such as collective biography.  Maud’s doctoral research examined the timing of motherhood and the classed politics of mothering which has been published in Sociology, Sociological Review and an edited collection entitle Is Parenting a Class Issue? and she has also written about the representation of mothers in the media in an edited collection Mediated Moms: Mothers in Popular Culture. In 2014 she was awarded a World Universities Network mobility fellowship to the University of Western Australia to undertake research on the affective politics of women’s relationships in the Academy. She is starting a new project in collaboration with the Single Parents Action Network in Easton and the arts collective MakingLearning about the use of craft in parenting and feminist education entitled ‘Making Mothers: a Critical Making Toolkit for engaging Young Mothers and Parenting Practitioners’.

Julie MacLeavy

Senior Lecturer in Geography, School of Geographical Sciences.

In her research Julie aims to develop a ‘cultural political economy’ reading of state intervention and its geographies. Specifically in relation to families and parenting this involves 1) the spatial and gender politics of wage-work and care-work; notably how the work-lives of families and patterns of care are changing in the aftermath of the recession and 2) social exclusion and the geographies of poverty, inequality and disadvantage; including most recently the issue of intergenerational inheritances (which refers to the poor socio-economic conditions that are transferred from parents to offspring).

Misa Izuhara

Reader in Comparative Policy Research, School for Policy Studies.

Misa’s research focuses on housing and social change, ageing and intergenerational relations, and comparative policy analysis. Her recent research projects include cross-national comparative research on 'Housing Assets and Intergenerational Dynamics in East Asian Societies' funded by the ESRC. She is the author of Housing, Care and Inheritance (Routledge, 2009) and the Editor of Handbook on East Asian Social Policy (Edward Elgar, 2013) and Ageing and Intergenerational Relations: Family reciprocity from a global perspective (The Policy Press, 2010).

Helen Thomas

Research Assistant in Law, University of Bristol Law School.

Helen is working on the Productive Margins: Regulating for Engagement research programme, looking at the ways in which communities can speak into regulatory structures. As part of this role she is involved in the Productive Margins 'poverty project' which is working co-productively with  Single Parent Action Network (in Bristol) and BRG Communities First (in Cardiff) to explore how the welfare state might be re-imagined situating children and family at the centre. Alongside this she has recently led the Girls Making History project, a co-produced piece of research with Knowle West Media Centre and a group of young women with personal experience of teenage partner violence which explored the normalisation of partner violence in teenage communities. Prior to entering academia she spent ten years working with families and young people in Bristol, leading and facilitating parenting and domestic violence and abuse centred projects with local charities alongside working with alternative education provisions for young parents.

Elaine Farmer

Professor of Child and Family Studies, School for Policy Studies.

Elaine has researched and published widely in the areas of child protection and child welfare, including on child protection practice, neglect, the reunification of separated children with their families, foster and kinship care and adoption.  Many of her studies have been in Department for Education or Department of Health-funded research programmes. Her most recent study on kinship care was an investigation of informal kinship care funded by the Big Lottery. She is currently working with the NSPCC on a Department for Education-funded project to develop Practice Guidance on reunification and implement it in three local authorities.

Dinithi Wijedasa

Research Associate in the Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies, School for Policy Studies.

Dinithi has been involved in numerous research studies, which include looking at pathways to permanence in the care system for minority ethnic children; educational support services provided by independent foster care providers; an evaluation of a new model for providing adoption services; adoption and the inter-agency fee; the reunification of looked after children with their parents; transition to adulthood for adopted young people; and adoption disruption in England and Wales.  Dinithi is currently working on an ESRC funded study to establish the number and the characteristics of kinship families in the UK through analyses of 2011 Census microdata.

Sibylle Kranz

Senior Lecturer in Nutrition, Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences. School for Policy Studies

Sibylle is a nutrition epidemiologist with research focus on diet quality and child nutrition as it relates to chronic disease prevention through improvement of diet quality.  She has worked with US, Chinese, German, and UK datasets and dietary guidance systems to explore the effect of nutrition policy on population health, especially in low-income populations.  Her main focus has shifted from secondary data analysis to intervention studies in preschools/nurseries and schools, conducting RCTs to establish evidence for the effect of food environment factors on child intake behaviour.  Three food groups/nutrients of particular interest are dietary fibre, dairy, and fish intake.

Marianne Hester

Professor of Gender, Violence and International Policy, School for Policy Studies.

Marianne’s research interests connected to families and parenting are situated around gender based violence and cover LGBT relationships/families, meanings and practices of fathering and mothering, children’s and parental rights, in UK, China and Scandinavia. Some recent relevant publications are on: girls’ and boys’ experiences and perceptions of parental maltreatment in China and England; international perspectives on men’s violence in families; mothering through domestic violence; and the relationship between domestic violence and sexuality.

David Berridge

Professor of Child and Family Welfare, School for Policy Studies.

David’s research concerns the effects of family breakdown and children 'in care'.  This includes alternative forms of family life, including foster care, adoption and children living in residential settings.  These are situations in which the State and local authorities act as 'corporate parent'.  I am also interested in the effects of being deprived of family life on children's upbringing, including educational attainment.  His current research projects are the educational progress of looked after children in England: linking care and educational data, and Driving outcomes: learning to drive, resilience and young people living in residential care.

Jon Symonds

Senior Associate Teacher in the School for Policy Studies, School for Policy Studies.

Jon has recently completed his PhD which investigated how fathers and other partners were recruited to parenting services. By analysing recordings of initial telephone calls between parenting practitioners and parents referred for parenting support, he identified more and less successful interactional practices that were employed to involve fathers. As well as his own experiences as a father and of being fathered, he also draws on his professional background as a child and family social worker with experience of setting up a parenting service and working with parents to improve the welfare of their children. His research interests include fatherhood, parenting, Conversation Analysis and the application of research findings to inform and improve professional practice.

Daryl Dugdale

Teaching Fellow in Social Work, School for Policy Studies.

Dendy Platt

Senior Lecturer in Social Work, School for Policy Studies.

Dendy’s theoretical interests are in parents' engagement with service interventions, and their abilities to make changes for the better.  He is currently working on an ESRC Knowledge Exchange project developing methods for social workers to assess parental capacity to change in situations where the children's welfare is being compromised.

Tricia Jessiman

Research Associate in the Centre for Research in Health in Social Care, School for Policy Studies.

Tricia is a qualitative researcher with a background in evaluating interventions aimed at supporting families. These include an evaluation of the free childcare offer for 3 year olds; access to childcare for families of disabled children, and an evaluation of ‘Healthy Start’, a food voucher programme for low-income parents. At the moment she is working on an Evaluation of ‘Letting the Future In’ (LTFI) a therapeutic service for children and young people affected by sexual abuse. The service provides therapeutic support for children, and also support for their safe carers (most often parents) in managing the impact of their child’s abuse on themselves, and recognising their child’s needs post-abuse and how to meet them. She is also leading on an Evaluation of an adapted version of LTFI for children with learning disabilities who have been sexually abused. Again the service provides ongoing support for carers.

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