Cycles of Disadvantage’ Revisited: Or, how and why some families stay poor and troubled across generations

  • Robert MacDonald (Speaker)
  • Tracy Shildrick (Speaker)
  • Andy Furlong (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Sociologists can often easily explain the problems some working-class families face as an outcome of social inequality and immediate and obvious disadvantages. In a minority of cases, however, family problems seem more lasting, deeply embedded, and recurrent down the generations. This is certainly how families in the UK government's 'Troubled Family Programme' are presented. Our argument is that problems apparently internal to 'troubled families' (and an outcome of intergenerational social learning) might, in fact, have their provenance in a semi-permanent constellation of external socio-economic pressures experienced by those families, in the places where they live, over generations and over decades. This is what was suggested by our research with young people and older family members in twenty families who lived in very
deprived neighbourhoods of Glasgow and Middlesbrough. On the basis of this research, this shared constellation of forces would appear to be made up of many parts operating together. For instance, we could point to a shared and lasting social context of: restricted – and declining/ degrading – job opportunities; a contracting and increasingly punitive Welfare State; the destructive impact of the local criminaldrug economy; punitive criminal justice systems; the socio-spatial concentration of health inequalities; poor quality
schooling and post-school institutions; persistent material poverty; poor quality housing and the decline of workingclass neighbourhoods. Drawing on qualitative case study material, we seek to elucidate some of these processes and
to understand better how and why some families stay poor and troubled across generations.
Period6 Apr 2016
Event titleBritish Sociological Association Annual Conference: Global Societies: Fragmenting and Connecting
Event typeConference
Location Birmingham , United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational