I obtained my BA and PhD from the University of Essex. In between, I gained an MA from McMaster University, Canada. I taught in the Sociology Department at Exeter University for two years and then in 1975 joined the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Southampton. I came to Keele in 2000 when I was appointed Professor of Social Relations in what was then the School of Social Relations. I have been at Keele since, aside from two years spent at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where I was Visiting Professor in Family Studies. My title is now Professor of Sociology, mirroring the change from the School of Social Relations to the School of Sociology and Criminology.
Research and scholarship
My main area of research interest lies in the broad topic of the sociology of informal relationships. I have researched and written quite extensively on a number of areas linked to this. I have a particular interest in the sociology of friendship and have written and edited a number of books on this topic, as well as numerous articles. I have also written quite widely on aspects of family sociology, again publishing a number of books and articles in the area. Most recently I have been interested in stepfamilies and am currently completing a book on this with my colleagues Dr Sheila Hawker and Professor Graham Crow (University of Southampton). I also have an interest in community sociology, including social networks, and in the past have been involved in research into housing needs.
As well as having been on the Editorial Boards of various journals – including Sociology; Personal Relationships and Sociological Review – I am one of the co-editors of The Palgrave Studies in Family and Intimate Life book series, along with Professor David Morgan (Keele University) and Lynn Jamieson (Edinburgh University).
My major teaching focus is on family sociology, although I also contribute to first year modules, especially Researching British Society, and to the second year module on Research Methods. At various times I have also taught modules on Communities and on Social Divisions to sociology undergraduates, as well as teaching introductory sociology to medical students and social work students. Broadly speaking, my teaching interests mirror my research interests on the sociology of informal relationships, including friendships, family life and community sociology.