Home | Research Themes | Gender


chalk drawing of male and female on balance scales

Despite significant efforts over the decades, there are still many areas of social life in which men and women are not equal. There are many examples of unequal treatment within the labour market, health systems, justice systems and schools which are based wholly or partly on a person’s gender. These differences are spatially diverse and change over time. 
Our research will examine gender inequality across a range of different contexts, such as educational attainment, experience of crime and job opportunities and will attempt to disentangle its effect from other potential explanatory factors.

Our current active research projects on gender inequalities are listed below. These link closely with our research on Socio-Economic, Age, Education and Justice inequalities).

Research Papers

Problem behaviour in children: policy, politics and social inequality in Scotland

This paper explores the impact of socio-economic and other inequalities on the risk of conduct disorder among a cohort of children aged 10 years in Scotland. Broadly defined, children with conduct disorder have a difficult time following rules and behaving in a socially acceptable way. In the UK, early onset conduct disorder is the main reason for referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. While there is an extensive literature on childhood conduct disorders, most research to date has focused on individual and family level factors, for example, child personality traits, family background and dysfunction, parenting styles and more recently, the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). A similar focus is reflected within policy, whereby the main emphasis is on parenting classes and child psychological therapies. For example, the Scottish Government Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027 aims to have completed a national roll-out of targeted parenting programmes for three and four-year olds with conduct disorder by 2019-2020.

Inequalities in achieving a higher education qualification: using a sibling design to disentangle the importance of individual and family factors

Sibling designs are an important analytical strategy to capture the family environment as a global measure, providing a summary indicator of all measured and unmeasured characteristics shared by siblings at birth and during their upbringing, such as genes, social environment, siblings interactions and many others. This, in turn, allows us to assess the relative importance of shared family characteristics vs. individual characteristics and of different parental background measures within the total family shared environment. This paper will provide new and robust empirical evidence regarding social inequalities in HE graduation. Using new siblings’ data from the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS), the paper addresses the following research questions:
 (1) What is the share of between and within family variance in siblings’ HE outcomes?  
(2) Does this differ by social class of origin and by other family characteristics?
(3) How much of the total variance between families is explained by parental social class, education and other family-level characteristics?

Against all odds: Enabling factors in early childhood for cognitive outcomes

This research investigates the extent to which children from more disadvantaged backgrounds achieve cognitive outcomes higher than their peers and the factors which are behind their more successful outcomes in a life-course perspective. The aim is to identify and understand specific factors and turning points in children’s lives which can help children to overcome the negative influences of the social disadvantage they are born in and to shed light on the mechanisms at play. Thus, we ask the following questions:
1)    To what extent do children from disadvantaged backgrounds attain successful cognitive outcomes?
2)    What are the key enabling factors that distinguish successful children from disadvantaged backgrounds (the ‘resilient’) from their peers who attain less? And what is the interplay between the enabling factors analysed?
3)    Are there turning points in the life-course of disadvantaged children which enable them to achieve better outcomes than expected?

Growing up with a lone mother in Scotland: the role of employment, childcare and family ties on children’s wellbeing

Increasing scholarly attention has focused on the link between family demography and inequalities, and its implications for children’s life courses. Children born from more disadvantaged families are more likely to experience family changes and structures that are associated with a loss of resources, such as their parents’ early and non-marital family formation, union instability and weaker labour market attachment. These experiences have important repercussions on children’s well-being and chances in life.

Mothers’ employment patterns and child behaviour: Comparing Scotland and Germany

The number of working women has markedly increased in recent decades. In this process, many debates have focused on how the children of working mothers fare in terms of well-being and development: On the one hand, maternal employment may negatively impact children because employed mothers have less time to spend with their child and they may be more stressed than non-employed mothers. On the other hand, increased family income and satisfaction derived from work may have positive effects on children. Maternal employment is socially stratified. Working in low-skilled occupation or stressful working conditions is more likely to be experienced by women in less favourable life conditions, particularly, low educated mothers. If these working conditions negatively affect child outcomes, then social inequalities are likely to accumulate. Therefore, studying the impact of maternal employment on child outcomes may shed light on processes of cumulative disadvantage in the early life course.
The key research questions are:
•    Does maternal employment affect the socio-emotional wellbeing of children growing up with a lone mother?

How have gender and age inequalities in conviction changed over the crime drop in Scotland?

Matthews and Minton (2017) have shown that the crime drop in Scotland is unequally distributed across age and sex, being predominantly driven by lower convictions for young men. We aim to build on this research to examine the roles of demographic change, prevalence (the proportion of the total population who are convicted) and frequency (the average number of convictions for those convicted) on overall conviction rates, identifying whether falling conviction rates are due to fewer people being convicted or the same number people being convicted at a lower rate. This analysis will provide important insights into the potential mechanisms which have led to the crime drop, supplementing existing work in the USA which has focused on young men (Berg et al. 2016) by exploring trends for men and women across the age spectrum. We will also examine how the use of different disposals - imprisonment, community disposals and fines - have changed over the crime drop, and how the use of these disposals have changed for men and women of different ages convicted of different types of crime.

To what extent does gender and poverty impact on the relationship between violence and self-harm?

In 1996, the World Health Organisation (WHO) adopted a resolution which declared violence to be a major and growing public health problem at a global level.  The WHO’s definition of violence includes both interpersonal and self-directed forms of behaviour (including self-injury and suicidal behaviour), the rationale being that these are often products of the same underlying factors. Both violence and self-harming behaviour are common in adolescence; however, few studies have examined whether there are causal connections between them or whether these are comorbid psychosocial disorders that are explained by similar aetiological factors, such as growing up in poverty. Moreover, teenage violence is largely perpetrated by young men, whereas self-harm is most prevalent amongst young women.  So there is little understanding of whether gender inequalities impact on any relationship between the two forms of violence.  

Our other areas of research

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