Centre for Disability Studies

Centre for Disability Studies

MA Disability Studies students celebrate graduation

MA Disability Studies students celebrate graduation

From Womb to Tomb: Disability, social policy and the life course

Dr Mark Priestley

A three-year programme of research, funded by a personal ESRC Fellowship Award (number R000271078) – from June 1999 to May 2002.


The research investigated the relationship between disability, generation and the life course, with a particular emphasis on the impact of social policies.

The legislative framework for social policy employs medicalised measures of impairment and chronological age to police the boundaries of the normal life course. Yet, impairment needs to be clearly distinguished from disability, as age should be distinguished from generation. Both disability and generation are culturally constructed and socially produced in modern societies. Moreover, both have been employed as key administrative categories in the historical development of social policy and the welfare state. The primary proposition of this research is that these two administrative categories are not merely parallel but also interdependent.

The research programme combined theoretical work with empirical policy research, and collaboration with non-academic partners. Although there is a clear social policy focus, the programme builds on the interdisciplinary nature of disability studies and life course studies. In this way, the complex relationship between disability and generation is located within a broader understanding of changing societies in a global context.

More details are available in the project report. The following activities and outputs are illustrative.

Research Activities


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