Professor of Social Psychology
BSc Human Psychology (Aston)
Research interests, current projects and recent publications
Main research areas: Consumption and identity, gender relations, youth research
My research covers a number of key areas, all of which fall within the domain of critical social psychology. The main linking theme of my research is social identities and the intersection between psychological experiences and social constructions, as shaped by relevant social and cultural contexts.
My work in youth research is concerned with young people’s experiences of the move from school to the job market, including unemployment and training, as well as young people’s involvement in leisure and consumption, sexuality and family life. Most youth research focuses on young men, and some of my earlier research concentrated on the distinctive aspects of young women’s lives. I was involved with single-sex youth work with girls and young women during the early 1980s, and have retained a commitment to increasing the dialogue between youth researchers and ‘practitioners’. I then turned my attention to the ways in which notions of ‘youth’ and ‘adolescence’ are constructed in academic research and social policies, including a major critical analysis concerned with representations of youth in British and North American research during the 1980s. I organised a series of Research Seminars on ‘New Approaches to Inter-disciplinary Youth Research’, sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), from November 2000 to April 2002, which involved a combination of speakers from the UK and overseas, including postgraduates, practitioners and academic researchers.
The second main area of my research concerns the study of social-psychological and socio-cultural aspects of gender relations and gendered identities, especially from a feminist perspective, which is also reflected in some of my work in youth research. I have examined various aspects of young women’s lives, including the construction of feminist consciousness and identity. I have collaborated with other researchers, including PhD students, in analyses of discourses around anorexia nervosa in 19th and 20th century texts; discourses around work and womanhood in representations of Bulgarian women; and representations of the menopause. My interest in gender relations includes a long-standing concern with the position of men and masculinity. From 1995-1997 I worked with Dr Sara Willott as Principal investigator and grant holder on a study of the relationship between unemployment, crime and masculinity in the accounts of male offenders and ex-offenders which was funded by the ESRC. I have a continuing interest in the experiences of young lesbians and gay men, including research with Dr Martin Holt on constructions of identity, authenticity and leisure space in the lesbian and gay ‘Scene’.
My most recent area of research interest is the relationship between identities and consumption. Many social scientists now argue that consumption plays an increasingly important role in shaping our sense of ourselves and our place in the world: this is epitomised by the ironic slogan: “I shop therefore I am”. However, research in this area has been disparate and contradictory (though frequently innovative), and located in a range of academic disciplines and local and national contexts. From 2001 to 2005 I was principal investigator and grant holder on an ESRC research grant investigating the meanings of consumption for young people, especially in relation to negotiations within households over resources, with Professor Ann Phoenix of the Open University, Ms Janine Hunter (Birmingham University) and Dr Rosaleen Croghan (Open University). The project examined the relationship between consumption and social identification processes for young people aged 12-18, including an investigation of negotiations over young people’s consumption in families, employing an innovative combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods.
I am also
Principal Investigator on an ESRC-funded study concerning the meanings of
alcohol consumption for young adults, from 2005 to 2007, with Professor
Isabelle Szmigin (University of Birmingham Business
School), Professor Chris Hackley (Royal Holloway
College London), and Dr Willm Mistral (
I have a long-standing interest in the use of qualitative research techniques and methodologies in applied social psychology, including grounded theory, discourse analytic techniques, and the potential application of ethnographic methods and cultural analysis to feminist social psychology. Applications to undertake postgraduate research under my supervision are welcome in any of the above subject areas, or in related topics.