Missions of the LIVES Centre: an integrated theoretical approach

The main objective of the LIVES Centre is to develop theories to understand and analyse the various forms and dynamics which vulnerability may assume and to find out how to withstand it (basic research). 

The particularities of the LIVES Centre include interdisciplinarity, the entire life course and resource mobilization. These three fundamental aspects of the research conducted at the Centre aim to give a global picture of the trajectories of individuals, taking into account the interactions between the different fields of life, such as family, gender, work, health, age, etc. In addition, researchers are studying the influence of societal structures, which can facilitate or hinder the mobilization of individuals' resources.  

Three missions at the heart of the LIVES Centre's activities

Science, society and training are at the heart of the LIVES Centre's research, and make it a reference centre at national and international level.

The missions of the LIVES Centre at a glance

3 missions of the LIVES Centre

Life course

Up till now, studies have been focused on short-term observation, either of particular aspects of living (work, family, health) or of particular phases in the life span (youth, old age). The research projects of the LIVES Centre are characterized by an innovative, interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach which involves studying and analysing the complete life course of an individual and understanding individual situations in their social and institutional context


The LIVES Centre involves close cooperation among researchers in the disciplines of psychology, sociology, social psychology, socioeconomics, economics and demography who are attached to the universities of Lausanne, Geneva, Berne, Fribourg, Zurich, and the University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland. It is hosted jointly by the Universities of Lausanne and Geneva.

Vulnerability vs resources

How do people deal with a changing world? Synonymous as it may be with lengthening of the life span and increase in material comfort, the development of post-industrial society is also a source of new hazards restricting the self-fulfilment of many people. Confronted with change in family, religious identities, made insecure by the major shifts of economic activity in a globalised world, there are many who feel or who actually find themselves in a situation of vulnerability. In the course of their lives many people are exposed to crisis situations, either because they lack key resources or because their living conditions deteriorate drastically. These processes cause human suffering and social exclusion, and they come with considerable financial costs.

As a result, investigating the mechanisms which allow some individuals to adapt better than others to the development of society is becoming a priority for better understanding the phenomenon of vulnerability and the means of withstand it.

Mission: Science

The LIVES Centre puts scientific methods at the service of society and interdisciplinary research. It regularly collaborates with cantonal or communal authorities as well as other civil society actors in order to apply the methods developed by the research teams in the field. Among the many benefits of these collaborations is the direct impact on the life course of citizens, who benefit in a very concrete way from the academic work carried out by the Centre.

In 2021, the LIVES Centre developed an interactive glossary containing more than 30 theoretical concepts that can be visualized in a semantic network. Aimed at both junior and advanced researchers, this innovative tool shares a common language to foster interdisciplinary research on vulnerability and the life course. It is the result of the collaboration between 25 senior researchers of the LIVES Centre, from 7 different disciplines.

During the funding period by the Swiss national science foundation, support for women's careers has been a priority at LIVES, which put forward and implemented several measures for supporting equality and parenting

Mission: Société

The LIVES Centre proposes a Doctoral Programme intended in the first instance for doctoral students in social science and psychology who include life course issues in their work. The Doctoral Programme aims to provide courses of study leading to high-quality doctorates within a reasonable period of time and to facilitate the professional integration of doctoral students in academic and other careers.

It is organised over a period of two years, with three to four seven modules each year. Four topics are addressed:

  1. Theories and concepts in life course analysis
  2. Scientific research skills
  3. Research practices and professions
  4. Gender and sciences

Between 2013 and 2022, various Winter Schools have been organised to train doctoral students and young researchers in drafting articles and research projects. 

Mission: Formation
  • the relationship between social structures, institutional settings and individual life courses, particularly in Switzerland, while scrutinizing the social dynamics of vulnerability during the life course so as to develop effective counter-measures
  • “new social risks” such as instability of personal relationships, growing insecurity in the labour market and the consequences of economic crises
  • the role and the effectiveness of the welfare state and of personal initiative during the different stages of life (youth, adulthood, old age)
  • transfer effects: analysis of individual life trajectories takes place at the intersection of the trajectories of family and work life, health and the utilisation of public and private services. What is the impact of a breakdown or turning-point (divorce, job loss, accident, birth, etc.) in one "career" on the other "careers"? And what is the impact of these events on those around one?
  • cumulative effects: are life accidents distributed randomly? Which social groups are most at risk for vulnerability? When one gets into a spiral of vulnerability, do the risks accumulate? What resources are the most helpful in making up for losses?
  • the effectiveness of individual and social resources in combating life stress and coping with trials, even coming out of them feeling stronger
  • interdisciplinary research approaches in social science and in collaboration with other scientific fields (medicine, biology, history, etc.)
  • innovative methodologies for collection and analysis of longitudinal data of high quality and comparable with the international level
  • a new research model for a cross-sectional analysis of social dynamics at the interface of work, family and institutions (hospitals, care and rehabilitation facilities)
  • a network of researchers who have been successfully working for 20 years on issues of life course and lifestyle
  • development of scientific initiatives at the national and international level
  • cooperation with the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences (FORS) and the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), as well as with a variety of cantonal authorities