I am a Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. My research has focused on gender, sexuality, and childhood in everyday life. I am interested in investigating the ways that micro, everyday interactions and meaning-making contribute to social inequality and to thinking about these issues across the life course. I am primarily a qualitative researcher.
I am currently working on a series of projects about child care, including a qualitative interview study examining the process of childcare expulsion, a study of the whether and how gender shapes perceptions of children’s challenging behavior, and a larger scale analysis of licensed childcare special investigations. I hope these projects will lead to a better understanding of the daily challenges of childcare providers and parents and that they will contribute to conversations about childcare policy.
My previous research on young children has examined how children’s bodies are gendered in preschool; how parenting advice books construct gender-neutral childrearing; and sexual socialization in early childhood, including gender differences, how mothers normalize heterosexuality for preschoolers, and how parents and children participate in and co-construct “where did I come from” conversations. My book, Puberty, Sexuality, and the Self: Girls and Boys at Adolescence (1996), is about gender differences in teens’ experiences of puberty and first sex. I have also published research on how gender identity serves as a form of social control during childbirth, and about the cultural tools advice books provide parents about gay and lesbian adolescents’ coming out.
I teach a wide variety of courses including gender, sexuality, childhood, qualitative methods, and honors thesis writing. I served as Director of Graduate Studies in Sociology for 5 years, and then Director of the Undergraduate Program in Sociology for 5 years. I also work with the Advance Program and work with many students in the joint doctoral progam in Social Work and Sociology where I chaired the Supervising Committee for the Joint Program in Social Work and Social Science.
I grew up in Amesbury, MA, received a BA from Hampshire College, and my MA and PhD in Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley. I have been at the University of Michigan since 1995.