Sociology professor works with local MP to inform policies on parenthood
Friday, 09 March 2018
Tina Miller, Professor of Sociology at Oxford Brookes University is undertaking a new research project that will investigate women’s experiences of, and transition to, first-time motherhood.
This project draws upon and repeats an earlier project she carried out a generation ago. The first project challenged biological and other societal assumptions about women’s lives, caring capacities, and motherhood in general. The new project will enable Professor Miller to gather more data, create qualitative longitudinal data sets and to trace continuities and changes in the women’s lives.
Professor Miller specialises in qualitative longitudinal research, which focuses on how experiences are narrated. In her motherhood study she undertakes three interviews with each participant. The interviews explore how becoming a mother and motherhood is anticipated, and then how it is experienced across the first year of their baby’s life. A key finding of her current project is that social media has emerged as a key facet of information gathering and sharing of ‘knowledge’. It also acts as forms of ‘surveillance’ and a platform for displays of (‘the good’) family life, in contrast to the study findings a generation ago, when social media did not feature at all.
Professor Miller’s research has tremendous impact, both inside and outside of academia. She has worked with MP David Lammy in the past , joining his panel to look at Labour policies around fatherhood. She was cited extensively in the resulting report on the modern challenges of fatherhood. Additionally, there has been a play inspired by her research: entitled Mums the Word, which uses satire to highlight the challenges that mothers face. It will be performed in Oxford as part of the Faculty Think Human Festival. More recently, Professor Miller was the only academic invited to present oral evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee, in its inquiry into Fathers in the Workplace. This is a cogent issue as she says, ‘We give no economic value to raising children. It is almost treated as a burden that must ‘fit’ around work”.
Professor Miller’s interests in motherhood, gender and modern family lives were crystalised after spending 5 years living in Bangladesh and the Solomon Islands. It was also influenced by her own experiences of motherhood, which did not fit the normative descriptions found in the baby books she had read. As she tells us, “Child raising is an invisible job: one that mothers are (mostly) still simply ‘expected’ to get on with .”
In terms of future research, Professor Miller intends to write a monograph about her current research, additionally, she intends to spend the next years researching the place of ‘fatherhood’ in the context of refugees and the role that resettlement policies plays in this.
Professor Miller has already published extensively in this field: her major publications include Making Sense of Motherhood, -Fatherhood and -Parenthood. Her staff page can be found here.