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Department of Family and Consumer Studies Faculty Research 

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Associate Professor Dan Carlson

I am a family sociologist who applies life course, developmental, stress process, and gender structure frameworks to examine the role of families in shaping health disparities and social inequalities within US society, especially as they pertain to work-family issues and adolescent development. My most recent work aims to understand the causes and consequences of the gendered division of domestic labor. I am currently conducting a multi-wave survey study with support from the National Science Foundation examining changes in parents' divisions of paid and unpaid labor during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.  My research has been featured in numerous media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic and Time

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Assistant Professor David Curtis

David has an active research program at the intersection of human development, population health, and public policy. Seeking to identify upstream causes of group inequities in health, David’s research focuses on the patterning of stress exposures and health behaviors by race, socioeconomic factors, and place. His policy research examines how local governments can invest in under-resourced neighborhoods in order to reduce health inequities.

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Marissa Diener research interests

Professor Marissa Diener

Marissa Diener is a developmental psychologist whose research addresses complex and challenging social issues that face youth and impact their well-being.  My research assumes that children's characteristics, such as neurodiversity, as well as parents' behavior and expectations, parent-child relationships, and the person-family-in-context are important for children's  development. 

One current line of research involves challenges facing and supports for children in health care settings.  Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most common congenital infection and non-genetic cause of congenital sensorineural hearing loss in the United States.   I have several ongoing studies focused on reducing the impact of CMV on children.  I am also interested in how to best support children in healthcare settings. This research examines the role of child  life specialists and other supports to mitigate the negative impacts of stressful health care settings on children’s well-being.  I employ multi-methods appropriate to the research questions being addressed, frequently using community-based participatory research (CBPR), which involves community members as co-researchers who help identify the issues that need to be addressed, collaborate in the development of the research questions and procedures, and provide input and feedback throughout the study with shared power in decision-making.  My research involves the development of interdisciplinary teams who can provide multiple perspectives on solving problems.

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Jessie Fan research interests

Professor & Department Chair Jessie Fan

Dr. Jessie Fan's research focuses on individuals and households' economic and physical well-being, both in the U.S. and other countries, such as China.  Within the area of economic well-being, she studies household decision-making on consumption, saving, and credit use, both in terms of general patterns, subgroup differences, and the impact of government regulations.

Some examples of research are ethnic differences in consumption patterns and middle-class attainment, the general decline of the American middle-class, cohort differences in food away from home expenditure, and simultaneous saving and borrowing behavior among households. Within the area of physical well-being, her research focuses on individual, neighborhood, and policy factors associated with both health behavior and health outcomes. Examples of research in this area include the impact of WIC reform on children's eating behavior, how neighborhood food environment and walkability affect residents' health outcomes, and how race and ethnicity affect food intake and nutrition.  Dr. Fan also researches consumer behavior in China, such as patterns in consumer decision-making styles, risk attitude and investment behavior, and consumer fraud issues in China.

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Priya Fielding-Singh research interests

Assistant Professor Priya Fielding-Singh

My research uses qualitative and quantitative methods to advance knowledge of both the structural and contextual factors that fuel health disparities in the United States. I have two central research streams. The first examines the structural determinants of nutritional inequality and diet-related disease, with a focus on maternal and adolescent health. The second investigates the causes of and interventions to tackle maternal health disparities.

Central to the first stream is the research that informs my new book, How the Other Half Eats: The Untold Story of Food and Inequality in America. The book, published in November 2021, reveals new pathways through which social and environmental factors drive disparities in diet and diet-related disease. My research asks: why and how does being rich or poor impact healthiness and quality of the food American families eat? Leveraging years of ethnographic research I conducted on families’ diets, I argue that dietary disparities cannot simply be explained by differences in people’s financial or geographic access to food. Rather, I show that tackling diet disparities requires understanding how families’ divergent contexts and resources impact what food means to them – psychologically, symbolically, and emotionally – because these meanings are key drivers of how and what families eat.

In a second research stream, I identify causes of and implement solutions to reduce women’s health disparities. Core to this work is my research program on maternal health. I am currently the Principal Investigator of a mixed methods study of traumatic childbirth and maternal postpartum health and well-being; the project utilizes in-depth interviews and surveys of mothers to examine how childbirth experiences, the healthcare system, and social and institutional supports drive racial/ethnic and socioeconomic inequities in maternal health outcomes.

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Professor Lori Kowaleski-Jones

Professor Lori Kowaleski-Jones

Lori Kowaleski-Jones, Ph.D., is a Professor and past Chair (2015-2021) for the Department of Family and Consumer Studies Department.  She is a core faculty member in the Masters of Public Policy Program, contributing a course in survey research methods. She also serves on the executive board of the Wasatch Front Research Data Center.

Kowaleski-Jones is a sociologist, with training in family demography and public policy.  Her primary research interests are in the areas of physical and social wellbeing of individuals and families with a focus on how public policy, food insecurity, neighborhood environments, and family factors maximize individual wellbeing across the life course. 

Over the past ten years, a key focus of her research has been a team science effort with colleagues in the Energy Balance Research Group to assess the role of the built environment for health outcomes.   Currently,  she is the PI on an NIDDK/NIH R01 project that examines the role of the neighborhood environment in the transmission of intergenerational diabetes risk using data from the Utah Population Database. 

Additionally, other current work involves an intervention aimed at increasing the reach of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit programs through innovatively extending the provision of free tax preparation via partnerships with the health care system and community organizations. 

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Kevin Rathunde research interests

Professor Kevin Rathunde

My research focuses on the developmental and educational importance of deeply engaging, intrinsically motivated experiences that are sometimes referred to as “flow” experiences. My past work has primarily explored how flow can enhance learning, talent development, and creativity, and how various environments (e.g., family, school, nature) can enhance or disrupt such experiences. My current research has moved in a more applied, community-focused direction and utilizes the arts to help communicate scientific findings. More specifically, in order to better communicate the value of flow and nature experiences to military families in Utah, a recent study developed an educational presentation that integrated the creative arts (i.e., music, film, photography, dance, and graphic design) with research-based information on the benefits of nature for health. 

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Sonia Salari research interests

Professor Sonia Salari

Sonia Salari, PhD is a sociologist with a specialty in gerontology, aging services, family violence, diversity and public policy. Known as an advocate for victims, her research on elder abuse and lethal domestic violence led her to study intimate partner murder-suicides across age groups. Her work is published in multiple journals, and a book, Family Violence Across the Life Course: Research, policy and prevention (2021 2nd Ed. Kendall Hunt).

As a family sociologist and gerontologist, I am interested in quality of life (QOL)  in the home and formal settings across the life course. Public health and family well-being are intertwined. My research examines gender-based violence, mental/physical health, abilities, race/ethnic/immigrant diversity and elder mistreatment. QOL can be enhanced in formal aging services and long-term-care by giving adult participants safety, autonomy and age appropriate status. Due to the hidden nature of family violence, I study the more visible lethal outcomes such as homicide and suicide among young, middle aged and elder adults. Femicide in the home is a consistent theme across ages, but the patterns differ. There are implications for domestic violence policy and prevention which take into account the pandemic, racial and income inequalities, along with the aging of the population.

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Su Shin research interests

     Assistant Professor Su Shin

As a consumer economist conducting interdisciplinary research, I focus on the American family’s economic and personal wellbeing.  My research seeks to identify factors that relates to cognitive functioning and its effect on the financial and economic outcomes for older adults and their families. 

My research also explores the impact of informal care on their financial and health outcomes.  I investigate what explains American households’ financial decisions, such as those for savings and investments. I also examine the heterogeneous effects of natural disasters on health outcomes, coping behaviors, and economic hardship according to vulnerabilities and whether federal and local government efforts mitigate their effects. 

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Professor Armando Solorzano

Associate Professor Armando Solorzano

My research agenda is interdisciplinary, multi method, and rooted in engaged scholarship. It is based on participatory action research and uses innovative methods in Arts-informed Research. My goal is to influence social policy and public opinion, to bring social transformation, and to recover the history of under-represented populations.

For the past twenty years my agenda has been focused on Mexican nationals, Chican@s, and Latinos in Utah and the nation. I examine the formation of Latino communities, education, family structures as shaped by economic and political forces, and the different patterns of Latinos immigration to the state. Recently I have tracked the transculturality of Mexican immigrants who redefine cultural practices in their host country and their homeland. An important part of my scholarship is the collection and analysis of Oral History Interviews. Using qualitative methodologies in Arts-Informed Research, I employ photography as a way to understand contexts, meanings, and validation of historical subjects. This community-based scholarship is expanded through photo-documentary exhibits that bring my scholarship to populations that have no access to institutions of higher education. Guided by participatory action research, my scholarship gives back to the community, and I use knowledge as a source of empowerment. My scholarship has proved to be effective in promoting scholarship among Latinos, in bringing people of different racial groups to the table, in influencing public policy, and incorporating Utah minorities in the state and national research agendas.

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Professor Nick Wolfinger

Professor Nicholas Wolfinger

Nicholas H. Wolfinger is the author of Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in Their Own Marriages (Cambridge University Press, 2005), Fragile Families and the Marriage Agenda (edited, with Lori Kowaleski-Jones; Springer, 2005), Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower (with Mary Ann Mason and Marc Goulden; Rutgers University Press, 2013), and, most recently, Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Children, and Marriage among African Americans and Latinos (with W. Bradford Wilcox; Oxford University Press, 2016). Wolfinger is also the author of about 40 articles or chapters, as well as short pieces in The AtlanticNational ReviewHuffington Post, and other outlets.  He is currently working with Matthew McKeever on a book on the changing economics of single motherhood to be published by Oxford University Press. 

Much of his previous research examined the intergenerational transmission of divorce--why people from divorced families are likely to end their own marriages.  Most of Professor Wolfinger's work involves multivariate analysis of data from national sample surveys and ethnographic methods.

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Cheryl Wright research interests

Professor Cheryl Wright

Dr. Cheryl Wright's current research centers on a community-based participatory research (CBPR) focused on students with autism and their families. She is the co-founder of NeuroVersity - a technology based educational program for students with autism and related disorders. The program leverages 3D design software to enhance the social, personal and vocational skills of participating students. The program is strength-based (visual-spatial skills) and interest focused. The NeuroVersity research team has published 20 papers focusing on the student, parent, sibling and grandparent involvement in the program. The long-range goal of the program is employment since individuals with autism have some of the highest rates on unemployment, and underemployment. The program that started in Salt Lake City has been replicated in 4 states and South Africa.

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Zhou Yu research interests

Associate Professor Zhou Yu

Dr. Zhou YU’s research focuses on the intersection between housing and migration. He is an expert on household formation, homeownership attainment, and migrant adaptation. His research has shed light on the generational divide in housing attainment—an important aspect of wealth inequality.  He has also worked on consumer fraud and urbanization. His research has been supported by institutions such as TD Ameritrade Institutional, the Russell Sage Foundation, and Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange. His publications have appeared in journals such as Habitat International, International Migration Review, and Housing Studies. Trained in the fields of demography and planning, he received his PhD from the University of Southern California.   

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Last Updated: 9/6/22