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Professor David Abbott

Professor David Abbott

Professor David Abbott
LL.B.(Brun.), M.Phil.(Liv.J.Moores), M.Soc.Sc.(Dub.)

Professor of Social Policy

Office Room 1.3, 6 Priory Road
Social Science Complex,
8 Priory Road, Bristol BS8 1TZ
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 331 0972


Current research

LGBT Disabled Men & Women and Self Directed Social Care Support’, NIHR School for Social Care Research, with REGARD, Stonewall & SCIE.

Building the Evidence Base for End of Life Decision Making for Men with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Muscular Dystrophy UK.


Recent projects

‘Men Living with Long-term Conditions: Exploring Gender and Improving Social Care’, National Institute for Health Research, School for Social Care Research with Marcus Jepson, Jon Hastie & the Duchenne Family Support Group:

‘Climate Change & Disabled People’, with Sue Porter. 

‘End of Life Planning and Young Men with DMD: A Feasibility Study’, (with University of Bristol Hospital Trust).

Becoming an adult: transition for young men with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy’. This research was based at the School for Policy Studies and was a collaboration with the Duchenne Family Support Group, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign and the Centre for Life at Newcastle University.

'Evaluation of disabled children's access to childcare' (DCATCH) pilot. In partnership with the National Centre for Social Research and the University of Warwick. Funded by the Department for Education.

'Developing methods and frameworks for understanding gender, disability and transition to adult life'. In partnership with Bloorview Research Institute (University of Toronto) and University of Loughborough. Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

'Researching the lives of disabled children and young people, with a focus on their perspectives' - ESRC research seminar series

‘Secret Loves, Hidden Lives: Issues for gay, lesbian and bisexual people with learning difficulties’. This study, carried out with Joyce Howarth and in partnership with the Terrence Higgins Trust and REGARD was funded by the Lottery. Further information is avialble at the on-line documents section of the website.

‘Risk: the role of difference’ was carried out in collaboration with the Centre for Housing Policy (University of York) and was an ESRC study funded. The work looked at how different social groups (including disabled people) think about risks to their financial security (for further details see:


I joined the Norah Fry Research Centre in 1999 and a central feature of my work has been the privilege and excitement of asking new and important questions in previously neglected areas.  It is this access to and analysis of ‘intimate stories’ (in the sociological tradition of writers like Plummer) which has allowed me to ‘trouble’ ideological assumptions and policy rhetoric about the lives of disabled children and adults – and their families and allies. And it is this close examination of the research encounter which continues to encourage me to ‘trouble’ some of the emerging methodological wisdoms about research with children and the role of the adult researcher (e.g. ‘Who Says What, Where, Why and How?’, 2013; ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’, 2012).

Much of  body of work can be characterised as ‘first-wave’. In the case of  disabled children placed in residential schools, research investigated the extent to which they were afforded their legal rights (and led to questions in Parliament and changes in law as a result) but also explored the experiences of families and disabled youngsters involved, leading to often unexpected and ideologically contentious findings (‘Best Place to Be?’, 2001). A study of whether ‘multi-agency working’ made a difference to disabled children demonstrated that despite the rhetoric of partnership working, families and disabled children themselves were experiencing few if any associated benefits (‘Proof of the Pudding’, 2005). Almost nothing was known about the lives of gay and lesbian people with learning disabilities before my research in this area and ‘Secret Loves, Hidden Lives?’ (2002-05) spawned changes in perceptions, practice, national policy and research nationally and internationally.Most recently nothing was known about the lives of a generation of young men with muscular dystrophy who were, as a result of advances in medical sciences, still alive when no-one had expected them to be (‘Becoming an Adult’, 2008-10). This in turn led to my NIHR SSCR research project, where, within the neuromuscular field, there had previously been no work on the intersection of disability and masculinity (‘Men & Long Term Conditions’, 2012-14). In this grant I continued my interest in exploring the methodological underpinnings of qualitative research by using Conversation Analysis to compare the data elicited by me and that of my co-researcher who has the same condition as the men we are interviewing. This is an attempt to develop the evidence base for user involvement in research – a phenomenon regarded as ideologically ‘good’ but largely devoid of evidence that it makes a positive difference. 

My current study continues collaborations with men with neuromuscular disease and explore preferences and experiences of conversations about end of life care:

I am an Associate Director of the NIHR School for Social Care Research:


  • Issues for disabled children and young people and their families
  • making transitions to adulthood
  • multi-agency working
  • disabled children living in residential settings.


Experience of a broad range of policy issues relating to disabled children - and their families.

  • disabled children
  • Memberships


    School for Policy Studies

    Research centres

    Recent publications

    View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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