Prof Rachel Thomson

Post:Professor of Childhood & Youth Studies (Social Work and Social Care)
Other posts:Co-Director (Sussex Humanities Lab)
Location:ESSEX HOUSE EH 210

Telephone numbers
UK:01273 876689
International:+44 1273 876689

Research expertise:
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Rachel Thomson is a sociologist by disciplinewhose research interests include the study of the life course and transitions, as well as the interdisciplinary fields of gender and sexuality studies. She is a methodolgical innovator and is especially interested in capturing lived experience, social processes and the interplay of biographical and historical time.

Recently completed projects

Curating Childhoods. Funded by AHRC Digital Transformations theme this collaboration with the Mass Observation Archive established a newmulti-media  collection on 'everyday childhoods' and explore synergies between popular and professional approaches to personal archives.

New frontiers in qualitative longitudinal research: A methodological innovation network funded by the National Centre for Reseach Methods that ran between October 2012 -13, involving a series of 5 seminars and workshops and resulting in a special issue of the International Journal for Social Research Methods March 2015. For further information see

Face 2 face: tracing the real and the mediated in children's cultures. Funded by NCRM as a methodological innovation project we follow panels of children and young people over time to trace everydy cultures and everyday digital childhoods using multi-media methods. The multimedia showcase can be accessed at

Past projects

Inventing Adulthoods: a 15 year qualitative longitudinal study of 100 young people’s transitions to adulthood funded by the ESRC and most recently by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

 Making Modern Mothers: Longitudinal and intergenerational investigation into the transition to new parenthood, funded by the ESRC through the Identities and Social Action programme and Timescapes


Editor – Children & Society

Editorial board -  Journal of Youth Studies, Gender and Education, Sex Education, Studies in the Maternal

PhD supervision.

Rachel is an experienced doctoral supervisor and examiner and welcomes approaches from qualifiedhas applicants in her areas of research expertise.

Selected Publications before 2012 (for those since 2012 see SORO)


Henderson, S., Holland, J., McGrellis, S., Sharpe, S. and Thomson, R (2007) Inventing adulthoods: a biographical approach to youth transitions,London: Sage.

McLeod, J. and Thomson, R. (2009) Researching social change: qualitative approaches,London: Sage.

Thomson, R. (2009) Unfolding lives: youth, gender, change,Bristol: Policy Press.

Thomson, R., Kehily, M.J, Hadfield, L. and Sharpe, S. (2011) Making modern mothers,Bristol: policy Press.


Journal articles

Thomson, R. (2007) ‘The qualitative longitudinal case history: practical, methodological and ethical reflections’ Social Policy and Society, 6(4): 571-582.

Gordon, T., Holland, J., Lahelma, E. and Thomson, R. (2008) ‘Young female citizens in education: emotions, resources and agency’  Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 16 (2): 177-191.

Thomson, R.  (2008) ‘Thinking intergenerationally about motherhood’, Studies in the Maternal inaugural edition 1 (1).

Holland, J. and Thomson, R. (2009) ‘Gaining a perspective on choice and fate: revisiting critical moments’ European Societies 11 (3): 451-469.

 Thomson, R., Hadfield, L., Kehily, M.J. and Sharpe, S. (2010) ‘Family fortunes: an intergenerational perspective on recession’ 21st Century Society 5 (2): 149-157.

 Holland, J. and Thomson, R. (2010) ‘Revisiting youthful sexuality – continuities and changes over two decades’, Sexual and Relationships Therapy, 10 year Jubilee Issue, 25 (3): 342-350.

 Thomson, R. and Kehily, M.J. (2011) ‘Troubling reflexivity: the identity flows of teachers becoming mothers’, Gender and Education, 23 (3): 233

 Thomson, R., Hadfield, L., Kehily, M.J., and Sharpe, S. (2012) ‘Acting up and acting out: encountering children in a longitudinal study of mothering’, Qualitative Research, 12 (2)

 Kehily, M.J. and Thomson, R. (2011) ‘Figuring families: generation, situation and narrative in contemporary mothering’, Sociological Research Online, 16(4) ISSN: 1360-7804

Book chapters

Elliott, J., Holland, J. and Thomson, R. (2007) 'Qualitative and quantitative longitudinal research' in Bickman, L., Brannen, J. and Alasuutari, P. Handbook of Social Research Methods, London/Thousand Oaks: Sage,pp228-248.

Rudoe, N. and Thomson, R. (2009) ‘Class cultures and the meaning of young motherhood’ in Graham, H. (ed) Understanding Health Inequalities: Second Edition, Maidenhead: Open University Press: 162-178.

Thomson, R, Kehily, M.J., Hadfield, L., and Sharpe, S. (2009) ‘The making of modern motherhoods: storying an emergent identity’ in Liveable Lives: Negotiating Identities in New Times, Palgrave Macmillan (ed.) Margaret Wetherell.

Thomson, R. (2010)‘Using biographical and longitudinal methods: researching motherhood’, Mason J. and Dale, A.  (eds) Understanding Social Research: Thinking Creatively about Method.,London:  Sage Publications

Kehily, M.J. and Thomson, R. (2011) ‘Displaying motherhood: representations, visual methods and the materiality of maternal practice’, in Dermott, E and Seymour, J. (eds.) Displaying Families,Basingstoke: Palgrave.pp61-80.



Thomson, R. and Hadfield, L.,  Holland, J., Henwood, K., Moore, N., Stanley, L. and Taylor, Rebecca (2014) New frontiers in QLR: definition, design and display. Technical Report. NCRM.



Professor of Childhood and Youth Studies, elected member of the Academicy of Social Sciences, member and previously founding director of CIRCY (the Centre for Research and Innovation in Childhood and Youth), co-director of Sussex Humanities Lab. Visiting Professor at SFI (Danish National Centre for Social Research).