The Sociological Research Practicum is the centerpiece of our first-year graduate training and often involves undergraduate students as well. Faculty and students have pursued a range of projects over the past few years.
In 2016-17, Jane McLeod’s SRP focused on the experiences of college students on the autism spectrum. It drew from life course research and research on college attainment to investigate whether being on the autism spectrum is associated with outcomes (academic, social, romantic, health) for college students, whether the association can be explained by traditional predictors of achievement (e.g., aspirations, engagement), and whether the associations differ by socioeconomic status and gender. The research team collected data from over 3,000 students enrolled at public community colleges and 4-year institutions in Indiana, conducted telephone interviews with disability services coordinators at the participating campuses, and— with supplemental funding—conducted in-depth interviews with a select sample of students and their parents. Results will inform our understanding of autism in young adulthood, the role of stigma and social exclusion in attainment, and theories of stratification over the life course.
Steve Benard’s SRP (2017-18) focuses on understanding the role of forgiveness and revenge in social life. The project investigates why people pursue forgiveness or revenge by examining how these behaviors enhance or diminish the social status (respect, prestige, social influence) that individuals have within groups. The project examines forgiveness and revenge in the context of common yet distinct social rivalries, based on political party affiliation, sports team fandom, and national identity. The research team examines these ideas with a nationally representative survey measuring Americans’ attitudes towards revenge and forgiveness, as well as a set of laboratory experiments studying how people behave towards vengeful or forgiving group members. This project will help us understand why apparently trivial disputes sometimes escalate to more serious conflicts, as well as how people weigh the decision to pursue forgiveness versus revenge.
Jessica Calarco will lead the SRP in 2018-19, focusing on parental decision-making. Parents make countless decisions for their children, especially in the first years of life. What to eat. What to wear. What to watch. What to read. Where to live. When and where to start school. When to visit the doctor. What to do when they get sick. Calarco’s SRP examines how parents make those decisions. Specifically, it examines the advice, information, and pressure that parents get from their social networks—their family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even online acquaintances. And it examines how that advice, information, and pressure matter for parents in making decisions. The project will follow mothers from pregnancy through at least the first year of their child’s life. The project will focus on mothers’ decisions about vaccines but will also gather data on decisions about breastfeeding, work/childcare, screen time, etc. The project will include survey interviews at roughly 28-weeks gestation, with follow-up surveys and indepth interviews at 6 months and 1 year postpartum. By examining the process of parental decision-making, this project can inform clinical and network-based interventions aimed at increasing parents’ adherence to vaccine protocols. By including a diverse sample of parents, this project can help explain variations in parents’ vaccine decisions and facilitate the tailoring of interventions for specific populations. By following parents over time, this project can reveal how parents’ vaccine decisions are related to subsequent parenting decisions and to children’s long-term well-being.