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, Reshaping social life (Routledge, 2005), 208p

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

Journal articles

  • Irwin S, ‘Lay Perceptions of Inequality and Social Structure’, Sociology, 52.2 (2018), 211-227
    DOI: 10.1177/0038038516661264, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/101846/

  • Irwin S, ‘Parenting teenagers as they grow up: values, practices and young people's pathways beyond school in England’, Sociological Review, 66.1 (2018), 241-256
    DOI: 10.1177/0038026117691718, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/110397/

  • 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, ‘Qualitative secondary data analysis: ethics, epistemology and context’, Progress in Development Studies, 13.4 (2013)

  • 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

  • Irwin S, Bornat J, Winterton M, ‘Timescapes secondary analysis: comparison, context and working across data sets’, Qualitative Research, 12.1 (2012), 66-80

  • 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, ‘Family contexts, norms and young people's orientations: researching diversity’, Journal of Youth Studies, 12.4 (2009), 337-354
    DOI: 10.1080/13676260902807235

  • 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

  • Duncan S, Irwin S, ‘The social patterning of values and rationalities: mothers' choices in combining caring and employment’, Social Policy and Society, 3.4 (2004), 391-399
    DOI: 10.1017/S1474746404002076, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/1295/

  • Irwin S, ‘Interdependencies, values and the reshaping of difference: gender and generation at the birth of twentieth-century modernity’, British Journal of Sociology, 54.4 (2003), 565-584
    DOI: 10.1080/0007131032000143591

  • Bottero W, Irwin S, ‘Locating difference: class, 'race' and gender, and the shaping of social inequalities’, SOCIOL REV, 51.4 (2003), 463-483

  • Irwin S, Bottero W, ‘Market Returns? Gender and Theories of Change in Employment Relations’, British Journal of Sociology, 51.2 (2000), 261-280


  • 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 (Guilford Publications, 2008), 415-436
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/104662/

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