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 areas relate to aspects of 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

I am currently undertaking research into parenting and family life. I have been running a qualitative longitudinal research project in this area which included survey research and a series of semi-structured interviews with parents between 2008 and 2014. A document was circulated to participants (Parenting and Family Life), after the second wave of interviews, at which point many parents had children moving into, or through, their early teens.

Work from this project is ongoing and some publications are listed below (Irwin 2015; Irwin and Elley 2013, 2011). I am especially interested in developing international comparative research in areas relating to parenting, schooling and socio-economic inequalities.

Other recent research roles have included running the Secondary Analysis Project of ESRC Timescapes,a qualitative longitudinal study (‘Changing lives and times: relationships and identities through the life course’ 2007-12), and developing secondary analytic methodological work, as well as research into inequalities and routes to higher education, and issues in gender and work-family conflict.

With colleagues I generated a range of resources and publications, along with a programme of qualitative longitudinal research methods training. Details of the work (including links to our publications, working papers, presentations and training) are on the website. I also recently ran a pilot project into student and pupil experiences and perspectives on a university ‘Students into Schools’ volunteering programme.


My main teaching interests reflect my research interests. I currently convene a level 3 module called 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
  • Secondary analysis of qualitative data

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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