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Motherhood in Western Europe

Insights from Western European Mothers

The changing face of motherhood — Western Europe

The accompanying reports combine a review of existing literature with an analysis of original quantitative data derived from a poll of 9,582 mothers from 12 countries in Western Europe, making it one of the largest studies of this kind ever conducted

Child Obesity and Health

An analysis of the latest available data from the Health Survey for England (HSE)

Child Obesity and Health — download the full report in pdf format

In this ‘National Childhood Obesity Week’, the SIRC report, Children, obesity and heath: Recent trends, holds up a true mirror, accurately reflecting the trend towards slimmer, healthier children. more

The Future of Freemasonry

An examination of the role of Freemasonry in the 21st century


This report is, as far as we know, an account of the first ever study that has been commissioned by Freemasons from a non-Masonic body. None of the SIRC members involved in the project are Freemasons, a fact that evoked surprise and welcome in equal measure from the Lodge members we met. more

The Changing Face of Motherhood

Insights from three generations of mothers


The report seeks to answer some specific questions about the changing face of motherhood and determine the extent to which modern ‘solutions’ to motherhood are more or less beneficial than the solutions of the past. more

a report commissioned by The National Lottery


… making optimistic symbols and anticipating optimistic outcomes of undecided situations is as much part of human nature, of the human biology, as are the shape of the body, the growth of children, and the zest of sexual pleasure…Neither the consciousness of mortality nor a cold sense of human frailty depresses the belief in desirable futures
Lionel Tiger, Optimism: The Biology of Hope.

I'm a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will
— Antonio Gramsci, Italian political theorist.

This report presents the first findings of research conducted by the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) into the nature of optimism in 21st century Britain. The research, commissioned by The National Lottery, has provided a distinctive and definitive account of the role that optimism plays in the lives of the British public, focusing on the importance of optimism both as part of individual identity and personal outlook and as a central factor in social relationships. 

SIRC takes as its starting point the idea that optimism, or the ability to favour a positive perception of current or future events, is something that is experienced by most human beings. While optimism is a common human experience, however, it can take on a variety of forms depending on individual circumstances and particular social contexts. It is often combined with (or restrained by) varying degrees of realism, pragmatism, fatalism and even pessimism.

Our ideas about optimism, and the extent to which we think optimistically, are formed both individually according to our personal idiosyncrasies and socially in relation to the social worlds in which we live. As individuals and in groups we learn on the one hand to be more wary of some types of risk and on the other to be more optimistic about particular outcomes or eventualities.

But what are people most optimistic about? Why is it we are more optimistic about some aspects of our lives and not about others? What, in the end, defines an ‘optimistic’ person?

In what follows we unravel these questions in order to explore the social importance of looking on the brighter side of life. 

Click here to access the full report in pdf format.