Centre for Synthetic Biology and the Bioeconomy

Staff Profile

Professor Janice McLaughlin

Professor of Sociology


I have been at Newcastle University since 2001, when I joined as a lecturer. During my time here I have played various roles, including running our undergraduate degree programmes, being Executive Director of the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre and Head of the Sociology Subject Area. I have just completed a term as Sociology's Research Director and REF Unit of Assessment Coordinator. 

My research examines various aspects of childhood disability via empirical research and in partnership with families and disability organisations.

My google scholar profile can be found here:



1996 PhD Department of Government, University of Manchester.

1993 MA Political Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

1990 BA Politics Honours (2:1), University of Strathclyde.


I am a member of the British Sociological Association


Research Interests

My current primary research interest can be briefly represented as: exploring how childhood disability or illness is framed from within the worlds of medicine, community and family. Through this research interest crucial insights are being generated on the importance of the relationships between these different worlds in the production of meaning. In the process the work challenges existing perceptions within disability studies that children and their families are simple objects of medical inquiry, alongside challenging perceptions in medical sociology that disability is interesting when it happens to previously ‘normal’ adult bodies. Clearly explorations of family and kinship are central to such explorations and I am increasingly pursuing an interest in both the fluidity of kinship relations, which are not framed by biology, and the significance of genetics in ascribing particular narratives of what family is based on biological ties.

An additional long term research activity involves writing on contemporary feminist social theory, in particular in relation to identities, materiality and critical theory. These two areas of work come together at various points, particularly when exploring experiences of and ideas about kinship and care.

A wide selection of my publications can be downloaded from Newcastle University's 'e-prints service'.

Current Research Projects

  1. ESRC (Principal Investigator) Exploring the Inequalities and Diversities in Disabled Young Adult Transitions. Co-Investigators: Professor Tracy Shildrick (Newcastle), Professor Nick Watson (Glasgow University), Dr Charlotte Pearson (Glasgow University), Dr Edmund Coleman-Fountain (Northumbria University), January 2023-June 2025
  2. AHRC (Co-Investigator) Rooted in nature: scaling up a programme of nature-based activities for a diverse group of young people in Middlesbrough. Dr Catherine El Zerbi (PI), January 2022-January 2023.
  3. NIHR (Co-Investigator) Living Healthy Lives: Exploring affects of growing older with cerebral palsy and use of healthcare services across the life course. PI: Professor Pip Logan (Nottingham University), September 2021- March 2023.

Postgraduate Supervision

I have successfully supervised 22 PhD students to the completion of their studies and currently supervise 2 PhD students. The majority of these past and current students are ESRC funded.

I am happy to discuss potential PhD topics in the areas of disability, kinship and care, medical innovation and feminist social theory. 

Esteem Indicators

British Sociological Association Elected Trustee (2016-2022)

Previous Co-Editor of the Scandinavian Journal of Disability Studies Research

Previous member of the Editorial Board of Sociology.

Review activities

ESRC, Referee Fellowship and Grant Proposals and End of Award Reports

Book Proposal Reviews for Routledge, Palgrave and Polity.

Journal Article Reviews for Sociology, Sociology of Health and Illness, Theory, Culture and Society, Social Science and Medicine, Social Research Methodology: Theory and Practice, European Journal of Health Management, Sociology of Health and Illness, Science Technology and Human Values and Feminist Theory, Women’s Studies International Forum, Community, Work and Family, Social Policy and Society, Journal of Applied Research, Diabetic Medicine, Health.

Keynote/Invited Talks.

Valuing Care in Feminist and Disability Politics, Care Visions Seminar Series, University College Cork, Ireland, April.2023

 McLaughlin, J. The politics of the boundaries between chronic illness and disability and the need to situate both in the making and disvaluing of varied embodiments, BSA Annual MedSoc Conference, Lancaster, September, 2022 

Relational autonomy as a way past the zero sum debate over whether children have enough capacity to be participatory research actors, Extending Voice and Autonomy through Participatory Action Research: Ethical and Practical Issues, Workshop, Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, Durham University, November.

Interdependencies of Care in Families with Disabled Children and their Significance for Citizenship, International Interdisciplinary Symposium, Families, Rights, & Disability: Interdisciplinary, Innsbruck University, June 2017

Kinship and Childhood Disability: Exploring Shared Memories of the Past and Present, Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past, Annual Conference Durham University, September 2016.

The responsibility to build capability in the context of disability, Pluralities of Health Workshop, Tubingen, Germany, October 2016.

The Medical Reshaping of Disabled Bodies as a Response to Stigma and a Route to Normality, Shame, Stigma and Medicine Symposium, Trinity College Dublin, September 2015

Making the Good Life Via The Medical and Social Reshaping of Disabled Young Bodies’, Reappraising the Good Life Workshop, Gottingen University, February 2015.

(With Edmund Coleman-Fountain) ‘Unfinished Young Disabled Bodies: Practices and Stories of Body Intervention’, College of Education, Otago University, New Zealand, February 2014.

 ‘Who is Family?’ The Ethics of Family Involvement in Healthcare Conference, Centre for Bioethics, Singapore University, February 2013

 ‘About Care and Family’, The Ethics of Family Involvement in Healthcare Conference, Centre for Bioethics, Singapore University, February 2013.

'Families’ experiences of paediatric genetics: Findings from an ethnographic study'. British Society for Human Genetics Conference, 5th – 7th September, Warwick University, 2011

‘Potential familial and patient responses to gene therapy: lessons from current genetics provision in healthcare’ TREAT-NMD 2011 International Conference, Geneva, Nov, 2011

‘Working across disciplinary and institutional boundaries in health and social research.’ BSA Regional Postgraduate Workshop: Bridging the Gap: Translating knowledge into action in Health and Social Research. Newcastle University. 3rd June, 2010.

‘Modes of care and mothering: How does citizenship and care intersect in the lives of mothers of disabled children’?, ESRC Seminar Series ‘Parenting Cultures’, University of Kent, January, 2009.

Parental perspectives on evidence: When are parents experts?, European Academy of Childhood Disability, Vilnius, Lithuania, June, 2009

(with Emma Clavering) ‘How inclusion is operationalised in early year settings. Findings from a research study undertaken in Newcastle and Sheffield’. Twelfth Conference and Annual Meeting of the North of England Collaborative Cerebral Palsy Survey, Trevalyan College, University of Durham, 21st of March, 2007

'What makes looking after a baby with complex needs challenging? The perspective of parents’, North of England Paediatric Society, Centre for Life, Newcastle, 15th of June, 2007

‘The social, ethical and political exploration of genetics and the new life sciences’, Launch of the Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, 27th of October, 2006.

'Gendering the user and technological innovation,' International Summer Academy on Technology Studies, Austria, July. 2001





I teach a Stage 3 Module called 'Investigating the Body' within the BA Sociology undergraduate Programme


I have until recently taught the module 'Social Divisions' on the MA Sociology and Social Research