Families, Social Mobility and Ageing, an Intergenerational Approach (100 Families)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 1956 100 Fams
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      machine readable files: combined total file size="approximately" 28.2 megabytes
      213 machine-readable text transcripts of interviews (originally recorded on reel to reel tape) in MS Word.6.0/95 format. Contextual materials, correspondence and documentation are paper-based.

Scope and Content

Content includes:

  • c 200 interview transcripts in machine-readable form.
  • Contextual documentation: original grant application, end of award report; interview schedule(s)/ topic guide; interviewer instructions; copyright waivers.
  • In-depth interview with depositor, Professor Paul Thompson.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in 1935, Paul Thompson was educated at the University of Oxford, graduating in 1958 with First Class Honours in Modern History. He obtained a D. Phil, (also at the University of Oxford), in 1964. This was entitled London Working Class Politics and the Formation of the London Labour Party, 1885-1914. In 1964, having spent three years as a Junior Research Fellow at Queen's College, Oxford, Thompson was appointed Lecturer in Sociology (Social History), at the newly established University of Essex. He was to continue his research and teaching in sociology and social history at Essex, being appointed Research Professor in Sociology in 1988. Thompson is regarded as one of the pioneers of oral history as a research methodology. He is founding editor of the journal Oral History and founder of the National Life Story Collection at the British Library National Sound Archive, London. Between 1994 and 2001, as Director of Qualidata, University of Essex, Thompson actively pursued his interest in the preservation of qualitative research materials for secondary use, depositing his own datasets and overseeing the development of this archival service.

Thompson's sociological study, Families, Social Mobility and Ageing, an Intergenerational Approach (100 Families), was carried out between 1985 and 1988 with the purpose of gathering via interview ethnographic and dynamic information illustrative of family, ageing and social mobility. A sample of 110 families was taken, clustered in 200 wards in England, Wales and Scotland. The sample was based on a sub-sample of interviewees from the ESRC stagflation project and the initial focus was middle generation informants, aged 30-55 married with children. Interviews typically cover family background and occupation as well as a full life story covering childhood, working life, marriage and childrearing.

  • Reference Time Period covered in Project: 1900-1985
  • Unit of Observation: Families/households
  • Sampling Procedures: Stratified or systematic random sample
  • Method(s) of Data Collection: Face-to-face interview
  • Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

This collection was originally catalogued by Qualidata, the Qualitative Data Service (now ESDS Qualidata). Background to the study is available as online documentation, in pdf format. (Documentation includes original grant proposals for the research, interview schedule, end of award reports and other outputs).

Access Information

By application to the UK Data Archive, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, C04 3SQ; tel: +44 (0)1206 872572/872875. Prospective users will be obliged to sign terms and conditions of access to research materials.

Acquisition Information

The collection was deposited directly by Paul Thompson in 1996.


This record was created largely on the basis of information provided by the collection level record for Families, Social Mobility and Ageing, an Intergenerational Approach (100 Families) in Qualidata's online catalogue, Qualicat.

Record compiled by Emma J. Barker, Qualidata, The UK Data Archive, University of Essex.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed machine-readable catalogue of the interview files is available from ESDS Qualidata. This catalogue includes profiling information for interview files: year of birth, sex, generation, relationship, residence, location, occupation and other contextual information such as date of interview, location of interview, name of interviewer, type of recorder, total no of tapes, tape format, transcript format, size and quality, key topics in interview.

Users may also consult the collection level record for Families, Social Mobility and Ageing, an Intergenerational Approach (100 Families) in Qualidata's online catalogue.

Alternative Form Available

Microfiche of interview transcripts is also available at the NSA and in digital format from the UK Data Archive (SN 4938)

Conditions Governing Use

No part of this collection may be reproduced, published, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the UK Data Archive. This may be obtained by written application.

Users may quote text up to a maximum of 300 words in total from the whole collection of interviews in any one single article or chapter in a book.


The materials held in the collection contain personal and identifying information. It is essential that the privacy of all respondents is not infringed. No real names or any other identifiable information used in the studies may appear in public and no attempt may be made to contact respondents directly. Use of the materials to derive information relating specifically to an identified individual or to claim to have done so is prohibited.

Custodial History

The open reel interview tapes, transcripts, associated correspondence and project documentation from 100 Families were first archived in 1996, by Qualidata, the Qualitative Data Service (University of Essex). At this time the machine-readable transcripts and all project documentation were deposited in the Oral History Archive at Essex and the audio tapes and a microfiche copy of the transcripts were deposited at the British Library's National Sound Archive (NSA). In 2002, the interview transcripts, documentation and correspondence were transferred to the UK Data Archive, University of Essex.


No additional material is expected.


Thompson, P., Itzen, C., and Abendstern, M., I Don't Feel Old, Understanding the Experience of Later Life, (Oxford University Press, 1991)

Thompson, P., I Don t Feel Old, Subjective Ageing and the Search for Meaning in Later Life, in Ageing and Society, Vol. 12, (2), (1992)

Thompson, P., Family Myth, Models and Denials in the Shaping of Individual Lifepaths, in Thompson, P., and Bertaux, D., (eds), Between Generations, (Oxford University Press, 1993)

Other Major Publications/Reports Based on Collection Materials:

Abendstern, M., Thoughts on Relationships between Grandparents and Grandchildren. Paper presented to Ageing Initiative Workshop, (1986)

Itzin, C., Media Images of Women, the Social Construction of Ageism and Sexism, in Wilkinson, S., Feminist Social Psychology, (Open University Press, 1986)

Itzin, C., Age and Sexual Divisions, (University of Kent, PhD. Thesis, 1988)

Additional Information

The 213 interviews in this collection were originally recorded on 418 open reel tapes. These were deposited with the British Library National Sound Archive (NSA), 96, Euston Rd., London NW1 2DB. The collection of interviews has been catalogued and entries may be accessed via the online NSA catalogue.