Photo of Christine Griffin

Christine Griffin



Training Location(s):

PhD, University of Birmingham (1978)

BSc, University of Aston in Birmingham (1975)

Primary Affiliation(s):

University of Bath (2003–2017)

Psychology’s Feminist Voices Oral History Interview:

Career Focus:

Youth research; consumption and identity; gender relations.


Christine Griffin was born in Lancaster in the Northwest of England, and grew up in Birmingham in the English Midlands. Her interest in politics and culture started from being “… born in the shadow of World War Two…”, and observing the ways people managed to continue living their lives during times of social upheaval. She also followed political events in the USA through reading copies of Time and Newsweek magazines her father brought home from work. As a teenager, her love of popular and soul music further connected her to the ongoing civil rights and political movements that influenced them. In 1980, Griffin was involved in the early beginning of Women’s Aid, helping women in need of shelter take refuge in an abandoned building. These formative activist roots which would go on to shape Griffin’s experiences in academia.

The first in her family to attend university, Griffin received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Aston. She went on to complete her PhD at the University of Birmingham under the supervision of social psychologist Michael “Mick” Billig. Billig had previously worked with Henri Tajfel on social identity and experimental research, and Griffin wanted to extend this research into the area of women’s gender identity. She was particularly interested in group, rather than individual identity. Focusing her attention on subordinated groups, in her research Griffin asked: “What do you do psychologically…if you’re getting messages that you are somehow inferior or deviant or deficient? And how do you make sense of that? How do you negotiate the world in which you live as an individual but also in a collective?”

However, the initial stages of her research proved to be challenging. As Griffin recounts, at the time, “… there weren’t really theories, there certainly weren’t feminist theories in psychology”. Additionally, PhD training in psychology did not yet support qualitative research methods. This lack of recognition for qualitative inquiry in psychology would continue to follow Griffin throughout her career. Indeed, it was this dearth of research and support that nearly caused Griffin to leave academia entirely. Fortunately, a cross-disciplinary research position opened up at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at the University of Birmingham in 1979, and her application was accepted. At CCCS, Griffin worked on a research fellowship focusing on working-class women’s passage from school to the job market.

Griffin’s work at CCCS exposed her to feminist approaches that supported the development of her research on the intersection of gender relations and identity. Working closely together, faculty engaged in discussions of research, pedagogy, and methodology, providing a unique interdisciplinary environment for Griffin to explore her ideas. This multidisciplinary context also inspired her interest in the value of everyday social interactions, as she put it “… how we negotiate our worlds, ourselves and produce ourselves and transform ourselves in the world.” The department was also far more politically active than the psychology department in Birmingham, which aspired to be ‘apolitical’ at the time. The completion of her research fellowship yielded not only the book Typical Girls (1985), but a vital shift in Griffin’s approach to psychology.

Griffin then moved to a research post at Leicester University looking at Black youth unemployment from 1983 to 1985. She then returned to the University of Birmingham as a lecturer in social psychology. During this time, her network of gender and feminist researchers began to grow, particularly as a result of her collaborations with feminist psychologists. Griffin recounts how important this enduring social network was when she returned to the heavily quantitative, non-feminist psychology department at Birmingham: “… I was working in a place where nobody really was sympathetic to my work, didn’t understand it, didn’t respect it… I depended entirely on networks of the sort of people who were doing similar work to me.”

Griffin also worked to develop activist spaces in feminist psychology through organizing the Women and Psychology conference at Birmingham in 1991. Though activism was a key theme at the initial conference, Griffin noted that over time “… [Activism] sort of has been pushed to the side and separated. There’s more of a gap [now] between activism and academia than there was.”

Griffin is a founding member of the journal Feminism & Psychology, first published in 1991 with the goal of creating a space for feminist work to be respected and shared. The journal was different from other academic journals at the time because there was a sense that it was a collective effort, and it took two years to develop. As Griffin remarked, “It was a very long process really… we had to ‘imagine it into being’ first.”

In 2003, Griffin moved from Birmingham to Bath first as a reader, then a professor in 2006. Her research shifted to the relationship between youth, consumption and identity. Observing the prevailing culture of drinking to intoxication culture of the period, Griffin sought to understand how the role of drinking and leisure in shaping how young women negotiated the complex and contradictory terrain of contemporary femininity in a post-feminist moment.

From her early experiences organizing the Women and Psychology conference in 1991, Griffin emphasizes the importance of the Women and Psychology, Women in Psychology (WIP), and Psychology of Women and Equality Section (POWES) conferences in cementing the spaces to talk about issues “… around women in psychology, being women in psychology, how to understand it. The research we were doing, qualitative methods, how to do that work.” Griffin also notes how the POWES conferences moved from focusing on more broad, theoretical issues toward traditional academic research less relevant to her own cross-disciplinary focus and interests.

Griffin retired as Professor of Social Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath in 2017. Throughout her career, Griffin has emphasized the importance of cross-disciplinary work and relationships: “Don’t be too constrained by the disciplinary boundaries because psychology is a deathly business... academic psychology can have a very dead hand in terms of limiting how you think and how you work and how you teach. So, you know, don’t let it rot your brain.” Her work highlights the importance of not just settling within the discipline but searching for interdisciplinary connections to strengthen and support ideas.

Her advice for feminist scholars: “I’d say make feminism your base, not psychology. Stick to or find what you want to work on and why.… and if you need to make a space to do that, do it.”

By Brianna Murphy (2022)

To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works

Griffin, C., Bengry-Howell, A., Riley, S., Morey, Y. and Szmigin, I. (2016). “We achieve the impossible”: Discourses of freedom and escape at music festivals and free parties. Journal of Consumer Culture. 18(4): 477-496.

Moewaka Barnes, H., McCreanor, T., Goodwin, I., Lyons, A., Griffin, C., & Hutton, F. (2016). Alcohol and social media: Drinking and drunkenness while online. Critical Public Health, 26(1), 62-76.

Griffin, C. (2014). Significant absences: The luxury of "being less critical". International Journal of Drug Policy, 25(3), 354-355.

Griffin, C. (2013). Representations of youth: The study of youth and adolescence in Britain and America. Wiley.

Griffin, C., Szmigin, I., Bengry-Howell, A., Hackley, C. and Mistral, W. (2013). Inhabiting the contradictions: Hypersexual femininity and the culture of intoxication among young women in the UK. Feminism and Psychology. 23(2), 184-206.

Griffin, C., Bengry-Howell, A., Hackley, C., Mistral, W., & Szmigin, I. (2009). ‘Every time I do it I absolutely annihilate myself': Loss of (self-) consciousness and loss of memory in young people's drinking narratives. Sociology, 43(3), 457-476.

Croghan, R., Griffin, C., Hunter, J., & Phoenix, A. (2008). Young people's constructions of self: Notes on the use and analysis of the photo‐elicitation methods. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 11(4), 345-356.

Griffin, C. (2007). Being dead and being there: Research interviews, sharing hand cream and the preference for analysing 'naturally occurring data'. Discourse Studies, 9(2), 246-269.

Griffin, C. (2004). Good girls, bad girls: Anglocentrism and diversity in the constitution of contemporary girlhood. In A. Harris (Ed.), All about the girl (pp. 55-70). Routledge.

Griffin, C. (2004). Representations of the young. Youth in Society, 2, 10-18.

Griffin, C. (2001). Imagining new narratives of youth: Youth research, the new Europe and global youth culture. Childhood, 8(2), 147-166.

Griffin, C. (1993). Representations of youth: The study of youth and adolescence in Britain and America. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Griffin, C. (1985). Typical girls?: Young women from school to the job market. Routledge and Kegan Paul.