The definition of a family has changed dramatically all over the world in the past few decades. To mark the 2018 International Day of Families on May 15, the United Nations is exploring the theme of families and inclusive societies.

A family packs onto a motorcycle in India for a photo
A family packs onto a motorcycle in India for a photo. (Pixabay)

Here are three U of G professors whose research is intended to help families with everything from caring for aging parents, to battling childhood obesity, to juggling schoolwork and child-rearing.


Prof. Sharada Srinivasan, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Holder of the Canada Research Chair in Gender, Justice and Development, Prof. Sharada Srinivasan has taken the first-ever look at how adult daughters and sons help care for elderly parents in India.

“In the absence of universal social welfare and pension, the expectation of old age support is one of the main factors driving strong son preference, daughter aversion and the resulting daughter elimination in India,” says Srinivasan. “The popular discourse that (married) daughters will not care for their parents, and hence the need for a son, is best examined by focusing on daughter-only families.”

Based in Haryana state in northwest India and in the south Indian state of Kerala, Srinivasan’s interdisciplinary project examines the political, socio-economic, spatial and cultural aspects of elderly care in families through ethnographic interviews and other data. Researchers are analyzing intergenerational patterns of support for elderly parents, particularly in daughter-only families.

“With limited research in India focusing on elderly care in isolation, my study brings together gender and intergenerational dynamics, as elderly care cannot be examined without looking at the value of and expectations from children.”

Prof. Sharada Srinivasan
Prof. Sharada Srinivasan


Sharada Srinivasan


Prof. Tricia van Rhijn, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition

An interdisciplinary social scientist, Prof. Tricia van Rhijn studies aspects of child development, family well-being and work-life integration.

She is studying experiences of non-traditional students, particularly mature students and student parents, in post-secondary education.

“Students with family responsibilities face additional challenges in furthering their post-secondary education when compared to traditional-age students. At the same time, they are found to have higher levels of motivation to succeed and higher grades,” says van Rhijn.

She says students with family responsibilities often return to school to improve life for themselves and their families. But attempting to integrate academic responsibilities into their lives can cause problems for students and their relationships.

“Supportive partners, children and extended family are vital to their success,” says van Rhijn. “Supportive institutions with inclusive and flexible programs and policies are also key.”

She co-chairs the Students with Family Responsibilities Community of Practice with the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services:

Prof. Tricia van Rhijn
Prof. Tricia van Rhijn



Prof. Jess Haines, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition

Combatting the growing epidemic of childhood obesity is a top priority in Canada. A leader in studying this topic, Prof. Jess Haines is developing family-based interventions, as the home environment can strongly impact development of a child’s eating behaviour. In particular, she is interested in developing interventions to promote healthful behaviours among preschool children, since lifetime eating habits form at an early age. In her recent work, Haines has tackled topics from picky eating to the unique role of fathers in development of their children’s eating habits.

Prof. Jess Haines
Prof. Jess Haines