Family & Life Course

Family and life course sociology, a core focus of the Department, examines changes in the family unit, and the individuals within that unit, over time. Particular attention is paid to the changing composition and increasing diversity among families over the life course and to variations both cross-nationally and historically in public policy and professional practice related to families and their members. The following are areas of particular strength.

 1. Family diversity and change

The meaning of family and family forms continues to change, as reflected in declines in family size, same-sex marriages, family dissolution, cohabitation, lone parenting, mixed ethnicity marriages, postponed child bearing and lengthening periods in old age. Several lines of research investigate a myriad of questions about the social processes underlying these changes, and their consequences. Researchers also consider the cultural differences informing family organization in Canada and around the world. (Johnson, Lauer, Lauster, Martin-Matthews, Qian, White, Yodanis)

 2. Life course transitions and aging

This area concerns age-related transitions that add up to and define individual and family progress along the life course. The life course is socially constructed, exerting a normative power on transitions, like finishing school, moving away from home, getting a job, marriage, childbearing and retirement. Researchers explore the intersection between human development and the life course, examine the impacts of aging on identity, and consider the interrelated nature of social transitions in people’s lives such as adaptations to changes in health status or intergenerational care giving. (Corrigall-Brown, Currie, Fu, Lauster, Martin-Matthews, White, Yodanis)

 3. Household economics and consumption

In this area the economic linkages among family members as producers, consumers and decision-makers are examined. Particular research projects focus on within household decision-making regarding allocation of resources, on the resource exchanges of transnational families, and on decisions regarding housing consumption. (Johnson, Lauer, Lauster, Qian, Yodanis)

 4. Family and institutional linkages

Not only are family forms changing but so too are the linkages between the family and other institutions, be these schooling (education), the labour market (work) or the church (religion). We especially examine cross-institutional timing and sequencing between family and jobs, educational events and family events and family and religious events. (Currie, Guppy, Johnson, Lauer, Yodanis)

 5. Sex and power in family and intimate relationships

Close relationships are fraught with emotional significance and meaning. Power often shapes interactions, whether in sexual relationships, close friendships or relationships between parents and children. Research in this area examines sexual history, adolescent relationships, romantic coupling and parent-child relationships. (Currie, Lauster, Martin-Matthews, Qian, White, Yodanis)