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Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research (CMI)

Gabriella Melis


Modelling Social Attitudes: the influence of family background for an intergenerational perspective

PhD summary

The central topic of my PhD project is the intergenerational transmission of socio-political attitudes from parents to their offspring, that is, to which extent a person’s opinions on socio-political matters are similar (or different) to those of his/her parents.

During the first year working on the research I mostly built up my knowledge on the definition of socio-political attitudes, how these attitudes have been measured and analysed over time in the context of survey research and quantitative studies, as well as on theories of psychological, social and biological processes involved in the transmission of this kind of traits.

Beside this work on the theoretical foundations of my study, I read journal articles, books, online materials, and took courses about methods to enhance the understanding of how something as intangible as opinions could be 'observed' over time, and even across generations.

My PhD involves analysing one of the most important longitudinal datasets available worldwide, the British Cohort Study 1970, which contains information on socio-political attitudes and life conditions of thousands of individuals and their families in Great Britain, from 1970 to 2012.

Hence, the next step for my project was to explore, select and analyse the data available here. I am presently working on statistical models and learning new software in order to make sense of the conundrum behind the relationship between concepts (socio-political attitudes) and numbers (my data and models).

On top of my PhD project, I have been organising seminars and workshops on attitude theory as well as on measurement models in social sciences, I am a teaching assistant for the MSc in Social Research Methods and Statistics, and I am involved in a research project working alongside other academics analysing environmental concern and pro-environmental attitudes over time. 


Prior to joining the Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research (CCSR) I obtained a BA in Sociology and an MSc in Methods and Techniques for Social Research at The University of Rome “La Sapienza”, where I also worked in the field of attitude research as a research assistant from 2005 to 2009. In September 2012 I completed the MSc in Social Research Methods and Statistics at The University of Manchester and then enrolled in the PhD in Social Statistics at The Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research (CMI).


September 2012 – September 2015


Economic and Social Research Council +3 Studentship


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