Research course

Children, young people, families, and personal relationships

Open University · Department of Social Policy

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent)

Months of entry


Course content

The Department of Social Policy and Criminology has extensive interests in this field and is engaged in a number of lived experience, policy and welfare-related research projects. We are active members of the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance (CCIG) – leading the Families and Relationships Programme and contributing to the Psychosocial Programme. We are also part of the OU’s Children and Young People Research Network.

Our substantive areas of interest include:

  • meanings and practices of couple relationships
  • family ‘troubles’
  • bereavement and change
  • parenting, kinship and intergenerational relationships
  • fatherhood
  • intimacy and sexualities in personal lives
  • children’s rights, participation and agency
  • changing service provision for young people with learning disability
  • the emotional dynamics of welfare encounters.

We have an international reputation for methodological innovation, with particular strengths in qualitative mixed methods research, visual methods, biographical and life story research, discourse analysis and historical methods.

Research students connected to this area are encouraged to join CCIG and to participate in the supportive and collegiate research culture in the department.

Potential supervisors

Department specialisms

Meanings and experiences of ‘family’, including the ‘normal troubles’ of family lives Meanings and experiences of personal relationships and adult couple relationships in contemporary contexts Death and bereavement as aspects of family and personal change Fatherhood Experiences and understandings of intimacy and sexualities in personal lives Lesbian and gay parenting Absences and silences in policy histories of the family Visual representations of childhood and/or family life The experiences of families with learning disabled children Changing service provision for people with learning disability Policy approaches to the care of children, especially in relation to fostering, adoption and learning disability Explorations of the intersections of children’s lives and welfare provision, both in the past and the present.

Fees and funding

Please see The Open University website for more information.

Qualification and course duration


part time
72 months
full time
36 months


part time
24 months
full time
15 months

Course contact details

Dr Janet Fink
+44 (0)1908 654530