I am a Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan and affiliated with the Women’s Studies Program. 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 and investigating conflict and collaboration at the family-childcare interface. This work includes studies examining the path to preschool/childcare expulsion; conflict between parents and providers around discipline; and examining differing understandings of children’s sexual behavior in childcare. This work also examines the role children play providing signs of their care to their caregivers. I am also conducting a larger scale analysis of licensed childcare special investigations.
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.