Professor Sara Arber
SARA ARBER was appointed Professor of Sociology in 1994 and has been Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender (CRAG) since 2001. She was Head of the School of Human Sciences (2001-2004) and Head of the Sociology Department (1996-2002). She joined the Sociology Department in 1974, following postgraduate work at the Population Studies Center, University of Michigan. Sara has remained at Surrey throughout her career apart from spending a year on study leave (1979-80) in India and Australia, and as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Australian National University (January to March 2005). Sara became Emeritus Professor of Sociology in September 2017.
Sara was President of the British Sociological Association (1999-2001) and President of the International Sociological Association Research Committee on Sociology of Aging (RC11) (2006-2010). She was elected as an Academician of the Social Sciences in 2000, a Fellow of the British Academy in 2008 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2012. Sara received the British Sociological Association (BSA) Distinguished Service to British Sociology Award in 2017. This annual BSA award is made 'to an outstanding individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the discipline by leading an extraordinary life as a sociologist'. Sara received the BSG (British Society of Gerontology) Outstanding Achievement Award 2011 for her contribution to the field of ageing and was awarded the status of Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in 2012. She has been actively involved with ESRC, including as a member of their Grants Assessment Panel. Sara's internationally regarded research has spanned inequalities in health, ageing and gender, and latterly she has pioneered the Sociology of Sleep. Sara was a member of the 2014 REF (Research Excellence Framework) Panel for Sociology.
Sara's research focuses on gender and class inequalities in health, ageing and gender, and on sociology of sleep. She was PI on SomnIA, Sleep in Ageing, a multi-disciplinary New Dynamics of Ageing collaborative research programme (2006-2011).
Sara has completed research for the ESRC on 'Negotiating Sleep among Couples' and on 'Older Men'; for the Nuffield Foundation on late life decision-making about life prolongation techniques; for the Health Development Agency on social support, social capital and health, and on older people and falls; for the US National Institute of Aging on a comparative US/UK study of clinical decision-making for older patients; for the EU on a comparative study of 'Sleep in Ageing Women' and a cross-national study of 'Gender, food and later life'; and for Anchor Homes to evaluate their refurbishment and rebuild programme in residential homes. She co-edited Contemporary Grandparenting: Changing Family Relationships in Global Contexts (Policy Press, 2012).
Much of Sara's research uses secondary analysis of large-scale datasets. She has conducted comparative research on inequalities in health, comparing Britain with Scandinavia in collaboration with Professor Eero Lahelma from Helsinki. She edited a special issue of Social Science and Medicine on 'Social and economic patterning of women's health in a changing world' (2002, vol. 4, no. 5) with Myriam Khlat, INID, Paris, a Monograph of Current Sociology on 'Gender, Ageing and Power: Changing Dynamics across Western Societies' (2007, vol.55, no.2), and a special issue of Sociological Research Online (12,5) on 'Sleep Across the Lifecourse' (2007).
Professor Arber is frequently invited to speak at international meetings, including Canada, Chile, USA, Latvia, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Austria, Ireland, Finland, Spain, Germany, Italy, Norway, Czech Republic, South Korea, France, Brazil and Belgium since 2005. Her book Connecting Gender and Ageing (co-authored with Jay Ginn) won the 1996 Age Concern prize for the best book on ageing.
Sara currently supervises 3 doctoral students in the fields of health, ageing, gender and sociology of sleep. She has supervised 50 students to successful completion of their PhD.
Sara Arber was President of the British Sociological Association (1999-2001), Treasurer (1988-1990) and is currently a Vice President. She was President of the International Sociological Association Research Committee on Sociology of Aging (RC-11) (2006-2010) and organiser of the ISA RC-11 Inter-Congress Conference on 'Ageing Societies and Ageing Sociology', 2004. She was Vice President of the European Sociological Association (2005-2007) and played a key role in organising the ESA conference in Glasgow, 2007. Sara is an elected Academician of the Social Sciences, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), and a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA).
Sara received the British Sociological Association (BSA) Distinguished Service to British Sociology Award in 2017. This annual BSA award is made 'to an outstanding individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the discipline by leading an extraordinary life as a sociologist'. Sara received the BSG (British Society of Gerontology) Outstanding Achievement Award 2011 for her contribution to the field of ageing. Sara was s a member of the ESRC Grants Assessment Panel (2008-12) and the British Academy Research Awards Board (2012-17). She was a member of the ESRC Social Affairs Committee (1984-87), and the S.W. Surrey District Health Authority (1981-90). Sara is currently a member of 5 Editorial Boards, including Journal of Aging Studies and Research on Aging. Sara was a member of the 2014 REF (Research Excellence Framework) Panel for Sociology.
The aims of this chapter therefore are to examine how parents and young people interact with each others? sleeping space and sleep time. First, by exploring the influence on parents? sleep of having teenagers and young adults living in the home. Second, to look at sleep from the perspective of young people, by examining how parents, other household members and technologies, such as mobile phones, influence their sleep. Finally, the positive aspects of sleep interruption expressed by both parents and young people will be examined, as, for example, when entering each others? sleeping space and time provides peace of mind and security, and can, in some instances, facilitate sleep.
Reprint of article first published in The British Journal of Sociology, 1991, 42(3), 369-396. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/591186
Methods Qualitative research in four care homes for older people consisting of semi-structured interviews and ethnographic observations. Interviews were conducted with 38 residents and 39 staff, and were analysed using a grounded theory approach.
Findings The findings have highlighted some challenges and opportunities for developing practice in care homes to improve residents' sleep. In addition to pain and physical disabilities, both the physical environment and practices in care homes can affect residents? sleep and night-time experience.
Conclusion Improving our understanding of residents? and staff experiences at night in care homes can inform the development of good practice in night-time care and contribute to a positive culture of person-centred care.
In part a response to this past neglect, and in part a response to broader social trends and transformations regarding sleep, sociologists and others in the social sciences and humanities are now turning their attention to what might broadly be termed the ?sleep and society? agenda (Williams 2005; Williams 2008). Sleep, in this respect, is not simply a rich and fascinating sociological topic in its own right, but a valuable new window or way of approaching a range of existing sociological research agendas on issues as diverse as work, health, gender, ageing and family life. This work in turn opens up significant new opportunities to explore the dynamic interrelations between social and biological factors regarding sleep and sleep disruption across the life course. In these and many other ways then, a sociological approach to sleep is not simply long overdue, but a timely and valuable complement to work in related fields of inquiry such as sleep epidemiology and public health which, in similar fashion, take us far beyond the sleep laboratory or sleep clinic to broader issues concerning sleep, health and society.
It is therefore to a further consideration and elaboration of this newly emerging sleep and society agenda within sociology that we now turn in this chapter. We outline several strands of recent sociological work - starting with some preliminary points regarding the very conceptualisation and measurement of ?sleep? as a methodological backdrop to the sociological themes and issu
Studies using conventional socioeconomic indicators have reported inconsistent evidence on socioeconomic differences in complaints of insomnia. We lack studies using a comprehensive socioeconomic framework over the life course ranging from childhood to adulthood. This study therefore aimed to examine the associations of both past and present socioeconomic circumstances with complaints of insomnia.
Data were derived from cross-sectional postal surveys (2000?2002) representative of the staff of the City of Helsinki, Finland (n = 8960, aged 40?60 years). Socioeconomic circumstances were measured by parental education, childhood economic difficulties, own education, occupational class, household income, housing tenure, and current economic difficulties. Complaints of insomnia during the previous month were measured by difficulties initiating and maintaining sleep and non-restorative sleep. Logistic regression analysis was used, adjusting for age and marital status.
Complaints of insomnia at least once a week were reported by 25% of women and 21% of men. Childhood economic difficulties showed associations with complaints of insomnia among both women (OR 1.52; 95% CI 1.31?1.76) and men (OR 2.25; 95% CI 1.67?3.02) even after full adjustments. Also current economic difficulties remained associated with complaints of insomnia, but only among women (OR 1.65; 95% CI 1.41?1.93). However, education, occupational class, and income showed only limited age-adjusted associations with complaints of insomnia and these associations disappeared after full adjustments.
Past and present economic difficulties were strongly associated with current complaints of insomnia. Supporting both families with children and adults to cope with their economic difficulties might reduce complaints of insomnia in adulthood.
Data Sources/Study Setting. Primary experimental data were collected in 2001?2 from 256 randomly sampled primary care providers in the U.S. (Massachusetts) and the U.K. (Surrey, Southeast London, and the West Midlands).
Study Design. Two factorial experiments were conducted in which physicians were shown, in random order, two clinically authentic videotapes of ?patients? presenting with symptoms strongly suggestive of CHD and depression. ?Patient? characteristics (age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status [SES]) were systematically varied, permitting estimation of unconfounded main effects and the interaction of patient, provider, and system-level influences.
Data Collection/Data Extraction Methods. Analysis of variance was used to measure provider decision-making outcomes, including diagnosis, information seeking, test ordering, prescribing behavior, lifestyle recommendations, and referrals/follow-ups.
Principal Findings. There is a high level of consistency in decision making for CHD and depression between the U.S. and the U.K. Most physicians in both countries correctly identified conditions depicted in the vignettes, although U.S. doctors engage in more information seeking, are more likely to prescribe medications, and are more certain of their diagnoses than their U.K. counterparts. The absence of any national differences in test ordering is consistent for both of the medical conditions depicted. U.K. physicians, however, were more likely than U.S. physicians to make lifestyle recommendations for CHD and to refer those patients to other providers.
Conclusions. Substantively, these findings point to the importance of patient and provider characteristics in understanding between-country differences in clinical decision making. Methodologically, our use of a factorial experiment highlights the potential of these methods for health services research?especially the estimation of the influence of patient attributes, provider characteristics, and between-country differences in the quality of medical care.
?It is ironic that such a small amount of research by medical sociologists is devoted to older people despite the high proportion of health resources spent on people above retirement age. What research there is tends to focus on sick older people who are already within the health care system. & The challenge is to build on the theoretical insights and methodological imperatives from feminist sociology and work on women?s health and apply them to older people.? (Arber, 1994: 18)
But other issues raised by the article no longer apply. Although, the importance of hearing the voices of older people and letting older people define issues of relevance to them is widely acknowledged, this is not always the reality in much research. Older people are no longer primarily seen as a ?burden?, but the mandate is increasingly for older people to be active and engaged in ?productive ageing? or ?successful ageing?. However, this contemporary mandate for older people to be involved in paid work, voluntary work and unpaid care-giving for grandchildren, partners and others, may eclipse social divisions among older people, including their health and physiological capacity to engage in ?productive/successful ageing?. The great research taboo in terms of hearing the voices of older people increasingly involves those in the Fourth Age.
Gender has infused and become firmly embedded within both the Sociology of Health and the Sociology of Ageing, although these two fields remain two separate disciplines, with the former much stronger than the later (at least in Britain). There are still many research lacunae. For example, we know much less about older men and their health than about older women, and the tendency to treat older women (or older men) as a homogeneous group within research remains widespread. More nuanced research is needed which addresses class, ethnicity, partnership status and sexuality among older people, as well as gender, and fully examines the intersectionality that characterises and differentiates the everyday lives, health and health behaviours of older women and men.
(Originally published in Medical Sociology News, Volume 20, Issue 1, December 1994)
This article analyses qualitative data from an ESRC funded multi-disciplinary project on couples? sleep based on in-depth audio-tape recorded interviews with 26 couples (aged 20?59) with younger and older children. Additionally, one week's audio sleep diaries were completed and follow up in-depth interviews were undertaken with each partner on an individual basis.
Physical and emotional care for young children at night was largely provided by women, with a lack of explicit negotiation between partners about who provides this care, even when women return to employment. Thus, considerably more women than men continued their daytime and evening shifts, as well as undertaking an ongoing third shift of sentient activity for their family, into the night. This resulted in a fourth night-time shift where physical caring, and sentient activities continued. As a consequence, women were more likely to subjugate their own sleep needs to those of their family. Fathers did not, in general, undertake this fourth night-time shift. Those that did were more likely to be the fathers of young adult children who were staying out late at night, with the focus of their concerns being the safety of their children.
Nonmedical determinants of medical decision making were investigated in an international research project in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. The key question in this paper is whether and to what extent doctors' diagnostic and therapeutic decisions in coronary heart disease (CHD) are influenced by patient gender.
A factorial experiment with a videotaped patient consultation was conducted. Professional actors played the role of patients with symptoms of CHD. Several alternative versions were taped featuring the same script with patient-actors of different gender, age, race, and socioeconomic status. The videotapes were presented to a randomly selected sample of 128 primary care physicians in each country. Using an interview with standardized and open-ended questions, physicians were asked how they would diagnose and treat such a patient after they had seen the video.
Results show gender differences in the diagnostic strategies of the doctors. Women were asked different questions, CHD was mentioned more often as a possible diagnosis for men than for women, and physicians were less certain about their diagnosis with female patients. Gender differences in management decisions (therapy and lifestyle advice) are less pronounced and less consistent than in diagnostic decisions. Magnitude of gender effect on doctors' decisions varies between countries with smaller influences in the United States.
Although patients with identical symptoms were presented, primary care doctors' behavior differed by patients' gender in all 3 countries under study. These gender differences suggest that women may be less likely to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment than men.
The aim of this chapter is to examine the meanings that Italian women attach to sleep, and their perceptions of one of the key factors that influence their sleep. The dominant theme that emerged from the interviews as influencing women?s sleep was their care-giving roles, although the interview guide was not specifically designed to examine care-giving. For this reason, the chapter focuses on how Italian women?s care-giving roles shape their sleep patterns and definitions of their sleep quality. Italy provides an important case study for examining the ways that care-giving roles structure women?s sleep because of the fragmented welfare provision for both childcare and eldercare. The particular intensity of family connections in Italy and close intergenerational exchanges of informal care puts into sharp relief how caring delineates the extent and continuity of women?s sleep, highlighting how family roles and relationships interact and intersect with sleep.
The chapter first provides a brief review of research on women?s sleep, which hitherto has primarily focused on sleep in the UK. We then provide a review of care provision, family culture and the Italian welfare state. After outlining our methodological approach, we present data on women?s understandings and meanings of sleep, before examining how Italian women?s care-giving roles impact on their sleep at various stages through their life course.
target and so interest in patient?s perspectives on trial recruitment is
increasing as efforts to improve trial participation continue. Studies looking
at factors that can influence cancer trial participation have raised several
key issues including patient?s views about the trial interventions, the
extra time required to attend additional trial appointments, and fears of
randomisation. However many of these used quantitative survey methods
developed from health professionals? perspective with little sociological
research addressing the patient?s perspective.
Qualitative interviews with 9 women, 3 included their husband in the
interview, were carried out, in order to discover what key factors influenced
their decision. All interviews were transcribed and analysed using a
grounded theory approach. By exploring women?s reasons for participating
or not in a breast cancer trial, this study gives some insight into the
importance of the family members to the women when making what
becomes a shared decision about trial participation.
The results show that the most important factor that influenced a woman?s
decision about trial participation was her family members? views and
opinions. For some women their relatives? view of whether or not they
should participate in the trial was more important than their own. Even
if the view was the opposite of their own they would still accept the choice
that their family member opted for. Key motivations for trial participation
were altruistic and there was a belief that taking part would help future
treatments, although this was balanced by the need to avoid personal
harm when taking part. There was a lack of understanding relating to the
trial process and participation which underpinned some of the women?s
This study shows that a major factor unexposed before is the influence of
family, and raises the issue of the importance of the family members in
cancer trial decision-making and the need to explore this further to meet
patients? needs. It seems that this has either not been prompted in the
structured surveys or not raised. Indeed all the recommendations from the
studies looking at barriers to participation (McDaid et al 2006) recommend
more information is given to the patients, and yet information does not seem
to be the requirement of the patients, but, the need to involve key people in
the family in the information giving process may
concern. The disparity between the number of cadaveric organs donated for transplant
purposes and those patients awaiting transplant operations continues to widen. This article
reports on the findings of an audit of deaths undertaken in 10 accident and emergency
(A&E) departments in North Thames region, UK. The audit itself was borne out of informal
anecdotal accounts from colleagues working in the A&E department who suggested that there
was a potential pool of organ and tissue donors that were not being realized. The article
discusses how those audit findings helped shape the current A&E education strategy in the
North Thames region. The result has been that the North Thames region has seen a dramatic
increase in the number of referrals from the A&E departments, resulting in solid organ
transplantation. Although the results are very encouraging, the program is still very much in its
infancy and a long way from the desired 100% referral rate. In order to maximize the number
of organs from the potential donor pool, the transplant community needs to focus more
attention toward donation from the A&E departments.
The chapter commences by stepping back 30 years to reflect on theoretical approaches to the study of aging and approaches that initially neglected gender. We then move on to demonstrate how the contribution of feminist scholarship raised awareness of the need to identify and address the neglected are of older women?s issues, and at the same time, neglecting older men?s issues (Thompson, 1994). Next, we consider how this approach ultimately evolved to take account of the interlinkages between age and gender relations in recognition of the need to examine men?s and women?s experiences relationally.
Emerging issues within this new era of age and gender relations are introduced in the form of the changing nature of roles, relationships, and older people?s identity. The following section focuses on the aging, gendered body through discussion of the tension between aging identities and narratives of bodily decline as experienced differently by men and women (Gullete, 1997). Finally, the chapter concludes by highlighting challenges for the future of aging for men and women, such as the growing numbers of the oldest old, who are predominantly widowed women, implications for unmarried or childless older men and women, and the policy implications of such challenges.
Government and other large surveys, as well as the increasing number of panel/longitudinal studies, provide very rich sources of data for secondary analysis. Many of these are under-analysed, from both a statistical and a theoretical viewpoint. This chapter argues that secondary analysis requires sociological imagination and that the secondary analysis of large, primarily government, surveys has untapped potential as a source of sociological insights.
Food practices expose social relations as they reflect, and are used to perform, social roles and identities. Life events such as widowhood in later life impact on the social roles of older people which in turn are reflected in food related behaviour such as the responsibility for food and food preparation. Continuities and discontinuities are experienced differently by older men and women, and the strategies employed to deal with them reflect perceptions of traditional cultural and gender roles.
The chapter firstly examines sociological literature around food and the gendered division of labour in the kitchen, and discusses the sparse literature on ageing, social networks and food behaviours. Secondly, it discusses the methodology of our qualitative research project. Thirdly, it analyses our data to examine traditional notions of age related feminine and masculine identities and their impact on food related behaviours despite, and as a result of late life-course transitions.
Reprint of article first published in The Sociological Review, 1991, 39(2), 260-291. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-954X.1991.tb02981.x
elationships and quality of life.,
The main findings of this study suggest that middle class retirees in India searched for an alternative structure to frame their time in retirement to gain an identity after loss of their work-related identity. A strong sense of ?retirement pride? influenced their retirement adaptation, which was the aggregate effect of their life?s accomplishments, a successful family life, possession of good health and financial freedom. They enjoyed freedom, but paradoxically longed for a routine in retirement. This thesis argues that routine in retirement was conceived as under the control of the retirees. They enjoyed freedom by structuring their time creatively through meaningful activities, in particularly part-time work, volunteering and leisure activities besides active engagement with family.
Both male and female retirees valued the importance of health for Active Ageing with the twin objectives of maintaining good health and not becoming a burden on their family. They actively pursued diverse social relationships with family and friends to remain in control for physical and emotional health. Both male and female retirees maintained an active lifestyle and found satisfaction through the process of Active and Productive Ageing. An important gender difference in middle class retirement was that women showed greater ability to engage in multiple activities by successfully combining their family role with leisure activities, volunteering, part-time work and care-giving. The findings from this study strongly suggest that for middle class retirees in India, a Third Age can be recognised on the basis of a positive attitude, resilience, acceptance, retirement pride, freedom, mental and physical health, companionate marriage (for those who are married), rewarding social relationships, and participation in meaningful activities with a desire to pursue a goal and Active Ageing.
Some cross-national symmetry is detected across the samples, particularly in the areas of female experiences of gendered victimisation and issues around short custodial sentences. Overall; however, the findings demonstrate that diverse macro-processes and models, especially in terms of 'inclusive' versus 'exclusive' penal cultures, effectually 'trickle down' and produce distinctly different female micro-experiences of crime and criminal justice in Sweden and England. Providing new qualitative evidence of the 'Nordic Exceptionalism thesis?, the findings indicate that, comparatively, the Swedish model offers a macro-context, supported and reflected in allied meso-practices, which is more conducive to the formation of lasting female routes out of crime and into active participation in 'mainstream' society.
The principal qualitative mechanisms that underpin this argument, identified as distinctive to the Swedish model through the cross-national thematic analysis, include: (1) a more robust infrastructure supporting individual change, exemplified in high-quality drugs and alcohol provisions; (2) lived experiences of legitimacy and trust in criminal justice interactions, encouraging less conflictual relations between the individual and authorities; (3) the impact of normalisation ideals and practices within criminal justice processes, ultimately enabling a smoother transition out from the system, and lastly; (4) subjective experiences of more accessible and attractive routes into participation and inclusion, including structured and holistic investments in quality employment support.
This qualitative study of 10 families involves 10 children with CP (aged 6-13 years), 7 siblings (from 5 families) and 17 parents. Influenced by existing literature on involving disabled children in research, qualitative semi-structured interviews are supplemented by data from children?s self-directed photography and sleep questionnaires, 2 week sleep diaries and actigraphy for all participants.
Findings emphasise the importance of the social and family context of sleep. For children, the bedtime routine was significant with reference to their practice of sleep and differences were highlighted dependent on age and severity of CP. Night-time interactions with parents were important for children with severe CP experiencing sleeplessness. For some children, the use and location of their bedrooms enabled the attainment of privacy and autonomy. However, differences, regarding these factors, were found between children with severe CP and those without. Night-time parental monitoring of children with severe CP was common but methods differed depending on a number of intersecting factors including severity of the child?s CP, location of bedrooms and co-existing health issues. Different methods of monitoring had varying degrees of impact on parents? sleep and on privacy for the child with CP. Co-sleeping was engaged in by a small number of parents with their disabled child at specific times and used as a strategy to protect the sleep of family members.
This study explores the QoL of older unmarried Saudi women by analysing their family relationships, social lives and daily activities. It examines how family relationships, social integration, health and financial aspects are influenced by social policies and gender-related issues.
The study is based on in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of 50 widowed, divorced and never-married women aged 60-75 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from a range of socio-economic classes; 25 lived alone and 25 lived in inter-generational households.
Gender segregation was a decisive factor that adversely affected the QoL of interviewees. They were dependent on their family or maids socially, instrumentally, and some financially on the ?Goodwill? of their children or relatives. Older divorced women were particularly likely to experience financial and social problems. Lower class and many middle class older women who lived alone were dissatisfied and suffered from depression, isolation and loneliness, whereas higher class women living alone demonstrated greater autonomy, independence and life satisfaction. Most interviewees had poor health and multiple chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which are linked to their socially and geographically restricted lives. Also, urbanization and associated cultural changes have adversely affected their QoL.
Gender segregation driven by ultra-conservative patriarchy has resulted in the economic and social dependency and restricted lives of older unmarried Saudi women. State intervention is needed to improve the general situation of older women, such as establishing care homes, increasing social insurance income and providing medical insurance.