Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Contact Details

  • Room: 11.08, Social Sciences Building
  • Tel: 0113 343 4432
  • Fax:0113 343 4415
  • Email:

Professor Sarah Irwin

Professor of Sociology

My research interests relate to family, parenting, education, youth transitions and socio-economic inequalities, and the reproduction of such inequalities across generations. I am also interested in lay perspectives on inequality.

I am Director of the Centre for Research on Families, the Life Course and Generations (FLaG).

Research Interests

My research relates to family life, parenting, youth transitions and educational pathways, and socio-economic inequalities. I have recently completed a qualitative longitudinal research project into parenting and family life, with a particular focus on parents’ values and practices as children grew up through their teenage years. I have a longstanding interest in transitions from youth to adulthood, and I am developing research into technical and vocational education and training. I am developing international comparative research work in areas relating to youth, transition and socio-economic inequalities. I have published work on subjective experiences, and perceptions, of inequality.

Another research theme of recent years has been developing secondary analytic methodological work, with a substantive focus on inequalities and routes to higher education, and issues in gender and work-family conflict. I directed the Secondary Analysis Project of ESRC Timescapes, a qualitative longitudinal study (‘Changing lives and times: relationships and identities through the life course’ 2007-12). As well as publications from the project there are various resources available – including QL and secondary analysis methods working papers – on the Timesapes website.


My main teaching interests reflect my research interests. I currently convene the level 3 module ‘Education, Culture and Society’, contribute to level 1 teaching on inequalities, and contribute guest lectures across levels, relating especially to research methods.

I have convened the new programme of staff student workshops through which we are further engaging our undergraduate and MA students with the research culture of the School as a whole. I have extensive MA and PhD supervision and examining experience.

PhD Supervision

I am interested in supervising PhD students in the following areas:

  • Family / parenting / class related inequalities
  • Educational inequalities; youth and young adult transitions
  • Lay experiences and perceptions of inequality

Key Publications


  • Irwin S, Rights of Passage Social Change and the Transition from Youth to Adulthood (Routledge, 1995)

Journal articles

  • Irwin S, ‘Class and comparison: Subjective social location and lay experiences of constraint and mobility’, British Journal of Sociology, 66.2 (2015), 259-281
    DOI: 10.1111/1468-4446.12121, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/90185/

  • Irwin S, Bornat J, Winterton M, ‘Qualitative secondary analysis in austere times: A reply to Coltart, Henwood and Shirani’, Historical Social Research, 39.3 (2014), 347-354
    DOI: 10.12759/hsr.39.2014.3.347-354, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/86333/

  • Irwin S, Elley S, ‘Parents' hopes and expectations for their children's future occupations’, Sociological Review, 61.1 (2013), 111-130
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-954X.2012.02139.x

  • Winterton M, Irwin S, ‘Teenage expectations of going to university: the ebb and flow of influences from 14 to 18’, Journal of Youth Studies, 15.7 (2012)

  • Irwin S, Elley ST, ‘Concerted cultivation? Parenting Values, Education and Class Diversity’, Sociology, 45.3 (2011), 480-495
    DOI: 10.1177/0038038511399618

  • Irwin S, ‘Locating where the action is: quantitative and qualitative lenses on families, schooling and structures of social inequality’, Sociology, 43.6 (2009), 1123-1140
    DOI: 10.1177/0038038509345701


  • Irwin S, ‘Gender and work-family conflict: a secondary analysis of Timescapes data’, in Understanding families over time: research and policy, ed. by Holland J and Edwards, R (Palgrave, 2014)

  • Irwin S, ‘Data analysis and interpretation: emergent issues in linking qualitative and quantitative evidence’, in Handbook of emergent methods in social research, ed. by Hesse-Biber S and Leavy P (Guildford Publications, 2008), 415-436
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/104662/

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