One of the unique and exciting features of Understanding Society is its household longitudinal design which allows us to understand complex inter-family dynamics – for example, the influence of parents’ behaviours on their children as they grow up, and vice versa, or how each partner’s employment choices or health experiences impact on the other over time. However, there has been almost no attention on how the life chances and outcomes that siblings have in adulthood reflect their shared family of origin on individual life trajectories. While there are studies that investigate whether being an only child or birth order influence adult characteristics, rarely if ever, can they examine all the siblings from the same family as adults. Similarly, while there are studies of intergenerational transmission of education or intergenerational reciprocity, these are often snapshots, rather than following different generations in parallel over time. Currently, Understanding Society is collecting data from approximately 19,000 two generation families and 3,000 three generation families. The focus of this PhD should be to explore the rich data on families within and across households and generations to address important research questions. For examples, the kinds of questions such a PhD might address include:
How does the development of the new generation life trajectories and households reflect their parents’ lives and each other’s? Do children’s lives increasingly reflect those of their parents or their siblings as they mature as adults? What characteristics of children or their parents, in childhood or as adulthood, make this more or less likely?
As parents mature and age, how does this change the family dynamics across siblings and generations?
Does the health and health behaviours of siblings converge or diverge as time from the family of origin progresses? Is this influenced by factors in the family or origin or their new living arrangements?
In their application, candidates should set out the kinds of research questions that they would be interested in exploring in their PhD and why, and put forward ideas about how they might answer these questions using Understanding Society data. https://www.understandingsociety.ac.uk. Candidates should have a strong foundation in quantitative skills; knowledge of longitudinal analysis techniques would be an advantage.