Barbara Mitchell

Professor of Sociology and Gerontology
Joint appointment with the Department of Gerontology

  • Email:
  • Sociology/Anthropology, Burnaby Campus
    Office Location: AQ 5057
  • Gerontology, Vancouver Campus (Harbour Centre) 
    Phone: 778-782-5234
    Office Location: HC 2630


  • PhD (Sociology) McMaster University
  • MA (Sociology) University of Waterloo
  • BA (Hons.) Sociology, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada


Dr. Mitchell, Professor of Sociology & Gerontology, was educated at the University of Waterloo (Honours B.A., M.A.) and received a Ph.D. in Sociology from McMaster University in 1995. Dr. Mitchell holds a joint faculty appointment with the Department of Gerontology. She began her teaching career at U. of British Columbia in 1991 as a sessional instructor and she has been teaching at SFU since 1994. Barb has taught several undergraduate and graduate courses over her career, including: Introduction to Sociology, Sociology of the Family, Quantitative Methods, Families over the Life Course, Youth and Society, and Families, Communities and Health. In 2002, she was nominated for an Excellence in Teaching Award.

She also regularly contributes her time to the media (print, radio, T.V.) by sharing her expertise on families, parent-child relations, youth transitions to adulthood (e.g., ‘boomerang kids’), gender relations, and the social/demographic aspects of families and aging.  Previously, she was the recipient of the 2004 President’s Service Award for outstanding contribution to university service through media and public relations. Selected Media Interviews.  More recently, she was awarded the 2008 Dean’s Faculty Medal Award in recognition of academic excellence in all areas of teaching, research, and service. Additionally,  her biography was listed in the 100th anniversary edition of the Canadian Who’s Who (2010), U. of Toronto Press, for making a significant contribution to Canadian Life.

Barbara Mitchell also currently or has previously served on several editorial/advisory committees. Notably, she was the Social Sciences Editor for the Canadian Journal on Aging (2011-2015) ,and she recently served as a consulting editor for the Canadian Review of Sociology for the Canadian Review of Sociology (2011-2015). Dr. Mitchell is also presently serving on the advisory board for the Canadian Graduate Journal of Sociology and Criminology, housed at the U. of Waterloo.

Dr. Mitchell has published her work in numerous journals and books, including: Canadian Journal of Sociology, Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, Sociological Perspectives, Family Relations, Journal of Family Issues, Journal of Marriage and Family, International Journal of Aging and Human Development, Journal of Women and Aging, Canadian Journal on Aging, and Canadian Studies in Population.

Research Interests

Families and aging; youth transitions into adulthood; intergenerational relations; mixed-methods research (quantitative & qualitative); social policy issues; health promotion.

Dr. Mitchell's in press/recent books and papers include:

Mitchell, B.A.

Family Matters: An Introduction to Family Sociology in Canada

Toronto: Canadian Scholar's Press, 2017, (3rd edition)

Mitchell, B.A.

The Boomerang Age: Transitions to Adulthood in Families

New Jersey: Aldine-Transaction, 2006
Recipient of the 2007 CHOICE Outstanding Book Title Award; nominee for the 2007 William Goode book award in family sociology, American Sociological Association

  • Mitchell, B.A. "Being Social," in L. Tepperman, P. Albanese. Principles of Sociology: A Canadian Perspective, 4th ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press, forthcoming, 2017.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "Empty Nest," in C. Sheehan, ed. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Family Studies, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2016.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "Happily Every After? Marital Satisfaction during Middle Adulthood Years," in J. Bookwala, ed., Couple Relationships in Later Life: Their Nature, Complexity, and Role in Health and Illness. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 17-36, 2016.
  • Wertman, A., A.V. Wister, and B.A. Mitchell. "On and Off the Mat: Yoga Experiences of Middle- and Older-Aged Adults." Canadian Journal of Aging, 35(2), 190-205, 2016.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "Intergenerational and Family Ties of Baby Boomers," in S.K. Whitbourne, ed., The Encyclopedia of Adulthood and Aging. NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2016.
  • Mitchell, B.A. and A.V. Wister. "Midlife Challenge or Welcome Relief? Cultural and Family-Related Expectations of Empty Nest Transitions." International Journal of Aging and Human Development, (online first), Dec. 23, 2015.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "Socialization," in L. Tepperman, P. Albanese, and J. Curtis, eds. Sociology: A Canadian Perspective, 4th ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press, pp. 82-107, 2015.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "Being Social," in L. Tepperman and P. Albanese, eds. Principles of Sociology: A Canadian Perspective, 3rd ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press, pp. 51-70, 2014.
  • Mitchell, B.A.  "Generational Juggling Acts in Midlife Families: Gendered and Ethno-cultural Intersections." Journal of Women and Aging, 26(4):332-350. DOI:10.1080/08952841.2014.907666, 2014.
  • Yonjie, Y., A. Wister, B. Mitchell & Gutman, G.  "A National Comparison of Spousal Abuse in Mid and Old Age: Is Elder Abuse Simply a Case of Spousal Abuse Grown Old?”  Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect, 26, 80-105. DOI: 10.1080/08946566.2013.784085), 2014.
  • Mitchell, B.A. & Lai, Y. "Intergenerational Conflict in Ethnically Diverse Families." Families, Relationships and Societies, 18, 77-96. DOI: 10.1332/204674313X670151, 2014.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "Being Social," pp. 51-72 in L. Tepperman, P. Albanese, and J. Curtis, Principles of Sociology, 3rd ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press., 2014.
  • Mitchell, B.A. “Happiness in Midlife Parental Roles: A Mixed Methods Analysis.” Journal of Family Relations, 59(3): 326-339, 2010.
  • Wanless, D., B.A. Mitchell, and A.V. Wister “Social Determinants of Health for Older Women in Canada: Does Rural/Urban Residency Matter?” Canadian Journal on Aging, 29(2): 233-247, 2010.
  • Mitchell, B.A. “Midlife Marital Happiness and Ethnic Culture: A Life Course Perspective.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 41(1): 166-183, 2010.
  • Mitchell, B.A. and L. Lovegreen. “The Empty Nest Syndrome in Midlife Families: A Multi-Method Exploration of Parental Gender Differences and Cultural Dynamics.” Journal of Family Issues, 30(12): 1654-1670, 2009.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "The Swinging Pendulum of Family Change: Comparative Life Course Transitions of Young Adults ." In Reading Sociology: Canadian Perspectives, L. Tepperman and H. Dickinson, eds., Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "Marriage and Divorce." In The Encyclopedia of Gerontology, J. Birren, ed., Oxford, U.K.: Elsevier Press, 2007.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "Social Capital and Intergenerational Coresidence: How Ethnic Communities and Families Shape Transitions to Adulthood." In Diversity, Social Capital and the Welfare State, R. Johnston and F. Kay, eds., Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2006.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "The Boomerang Age from Childhood to Adulthood: Emergent Trends for Aging Families." Canadian Studies in Population, 33(2), 154-176, 2006.
  • Mitchell, B.A. Changing Courses: The Pendulum of Family Transitions in Comparative Perspective. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 37(3), 154-176, 37(3), 325-343, 2006.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "Canada’s Growing Visible Minority Population: Generational Challenges, Opportunities and Federal Policy Considerations." Discussion paper commissioned by The Multicultural Program, Dept. of Canadian Heritage, Gatineau, Quebec, pp. 51-62, 2005.
  • Mitchell, B.A., Wister, A.V. and E.M. Gee "The Ethnic and Family Nexus on Homeleaving and Home Returning Among Canadian Young Adults." Canadian Journal of Sociology, 29(4), 543-575, 2004.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "Making the Move: Cultural and Parental Influences on Young Adults’ Departures from Home. “Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 35(3), 423-443, 2004.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "Home but not Alone: Social and Economic Aspects of Young Adults Sharing Parental Households." Atlantis: A Women’s Studies Journal, 28(2), 115- 125, 2004.
  • Mitchell, B.A. "Life Course Theory," in The International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family Relationships, 2nd ed., J.J. Ponzetti (ed). New York: MacMillan Reference, USA, pp. 1051-1055, 2003.

Major Research Funding Awards as Principal Investigator

Mitchell, B.A. (P.I., solo applicant). 2014-2018. The Nexus of Intergenerational Ties in Young Adulthood and Parental Transitions to Adulthood. Insight Grant funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (value: $192,165).

Mitchell, B.A. (P.I., solo applicant), 2006-2009. Mid and Later Life Parenting and the Launching of Adult Children: Cultural Dynamics, Health & Well-Being. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (value: $151,029).

Mitchell, B.A. (P.I., Co-P.I. A. Wister; the late E.M. Gee), 1999-2003. Culture and Coresidence: A Comparative Analysis of Ethnicity, Living Arrangements, Intergenerational Relations and Support in Canadian Families. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (value: $150,900).