Social Sciences

Social science is able to develop nuanced understandings of why people and institutions behave as they do. It takes into account issues of power, of societal norms, of changing expectations and capacities to act, to explain individual behaviour in wider spheres of influence.  

In the Social Sciences research group we have a wealth of expertise in explaining the social world from a variety of disciplinary perspectives (criminology, geography, history, politics, psychology, sociology, law) and have applied this to a variety of socially important arenas. Key areas include: Health & wellbeing; Families, young people and relationships; Military studies; Penology and penal change; Policing; Power, Space and Geopolitics; Victimology and restorative Justice.

We have an established history of working with key stakeholders to deliver policy relevant research. Explanations often require understanding  issues from a number of different analytical perspectives, and the social sciences research group contains  a breadth of analytical expertise. This enables us to design and deliver high quality research that is robust, innovative and frequently multi-disciplinary.  

Health & wellbeing 

Health and wellbeing are fundamental aspects of human experience and central to social science research. Research carried out in the subject group contributes to our greater understanding of many of these aspects of health and wellbeing, and projects include:

• mental health, masculinity and violence;
• trauma and post-traumatic growth;
• understanding screening and diagnosis;
• military families and their access to welfare 
• factors influencing the wellbeing of military veterans, and veterans families
• men's health and masculinities;
• fatherhood and wellbeing;
• sexual health, contraception, risk and responsibility;
• physical activity and health amongst Scottish teenagers;
• mental health and custody;
• the impacts of natural resource governance in South America on health and wellbeing

In 2016 one of our lecturers Dr. Sally Brown published a book titled Teenage Pregnancy, Parenting and Intergenerational Relations.

Families, Young People and Relationships 

Our qualitative and mixed methods studies examine how social categories such as race, nationality, gender, age and/or social class impact on families, young people, identities and relationships. The research encompasses a diversity of academic disciplines in our subject group, notably from geographers, criminologists, career guidance specialists, and sociologists. 

Families and relationships

• Multi-generational experiences of teenage pregnancy and parenting
• Transnational family migration
• Military families, welfare, and support 
• Gender equality in the private sphere
• Emotion and power within couple relationships

Young People

• Access to higher education
• Physical activity and health
• Young people’s everyday geopolitics
• Participation in youth groups: benefits and barriers 
• Career guidance, career capabilities amongst marginalised groups
• Experiences of unemployment, the impact of active labour market programmes on well-being
• Approaches to career counselling in groups
• Juveniles in custody
• Anti-social behaviour and young people
• Youth, mobilities and migration
• Young people, contraception and sexual health

Military studies

We have a programme of research investigating the contours of military life, for individuals and families, both in service and those whose service has ended (i.e. veterans).  This multi-disciplinary work on inclusion and wellbeing amongst military populations draws on sociological understandings (gender, social class, social capital), psychological theories (resilience, decision making, motivation), and other aspects from social geographies and welfare to biomechanical injury prevention. 

Point of contact: Dr Mandy Winterton

We undertake applied research as part of a collaborative network of organisations with scientific research capability to inform defence decisions at the Defence Human Capability Science & Technology Centre

We are also members of the European Research Group on Military and Society, an international, multi-disciplinary research network dedicated to understanding the relationships between armed forces and society.

Penology and penal change 

Our research and scholarship in these areas relates to Scottish criminal justice, criminal justice reform, the gendered nature of violent offending and responses to this, the experience of long term imprisonment, the treatment and management of mentally disordered offenders, community justice, and the criminal justice policy-making process. Specific projects in this area includes:

• community justice reform in Scotland

• constructions of national identities and the effects on criminal justice policy 

• the political and cultural dynamics of the use of expert knowledge and evidence in the criminal justice policy making process

• associations between violence, serious mental illness and masculinities

• influence of long term institutional psychiatric internment on recovery and desistence from violent crime


Our researchers work with various bodies (including  the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR), and  the Police Service of Scotland and regional UK police forces), in order to  conduct strategically relevant, applied research to help the police meet the challenges of the 21st century, and for achieving international excellence for policing research in Scotland.  Ongoing research areas and projects include: community policing, custody, rural policing and knowledge exchange. Indicative research includes:

• community policing and safety
• rural policing and custody
• the role of social media in community policing:  (in the UK and across other European nations) 
• the implications of  Stop and Search practices within Scotland

We are a partner in the Unity project, a European partnership of organisations collaborating to create a new, community-centred approach to Community Policing.

We are also an active member of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR), a strategic collaboration between 13 of Scotland's universities and the Police Service of Scotland. Our research is contributing towards attaining international excellence for policing research in Scotland.

Power, Space and Geopolitics 

This area of research is broadly concerned with how power and politics operate across national, regional and international boundaries. We take a critical lens to disrupt hegemonic discourses and structures through exploratory and/or scholar-activist research. Geographically, our work is situated in diverse urban and rural contexts specifically Central and Eastern Europe, Scotland/UK and South America. 

Research in this area includes:
  • Environmental Governance 
  • Regional environmental politics in South America 
  • The politics of natural resource governance
  • International Migration
  • Polish youth mobilities in the European Union 
  • Histories of Scottish diaspora
  • Lifestyle migration in East Asia
  • Securities in everyday life 
  • Welfare and community in military landscapes
  • Young people’s everyday securities
  • Geographies of policing
  • Crime and rural geography
  • Feminist geopolitics/critical securities

Victimology and restorative Justice 

Our close links with organisations in the restorative justice arena both in Scotland and in Europe (e.g. Scotland Restorative Justice Forum, Crown Office of the Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), victim support charities) enriches our research and consultancy, to facilitate informed choices regarding victims’ rights and structural reforms. 

We have expertise in victim-offender mediation and Family Group Conferencing within various settings (i.e. in schools, healthcare organisations, workplaces etc.), in legal drafting, as well as the Scottish Crime Survey, psychological victimology, and qualitative research with victims of crime. Recent grants include:
  • Cognitive Assessment of Crime and Victim Participation in the Criminal Justice System
  • The history of restorative justice in the UK
  • The position of victims with restorative justice