Indiana University Bloomington


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Jennifer Caputo

My research explores how social structures influence the well-being of individuals, with a special emphasis on inequality. This interest is exemplified in my dissertation, which explores gender differences in symptoms of psychological distress among a longitudinal, nationally- representative cohort of young adults from the National Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Using a variety of cross-sectional and longitudinal regression techniques and making use of four outcomes (depressive symptoms, symptoms of alcohol abuse, hypertension and sleep problems) the analyses in my dissertation provide: (1) a descriptive profile of gender differences in symptoms of psychological distress in the Add Health sample, (2) an analysis of gender differences in the relationship between adult social roles and mental health, and (3) an exploration of how mismatches between young adults’ adolescent expectations for marriage, education, and income and their current achievements affect their mental health, as well as gender differences therein. My dissertation represents an important elaboration of existing work on gender differences in mental health in that it addresses three key limitations of prior research. First, the analyses make use of four outcomes to capture different ways individuals may express distress, while prior work focused overwhelmingly on depressive symptoms. Second, I explore racial/ethnic and socioeconomic differences in the relationship between gender and mental health, which have generally been overlooked. The first two longstanding limitations in the work on gender and distress are underscored by a third limitation: that much of the research is based on cohorts of adults from generations past and is now quite dated. Recent changes in the structure and meaning of gender for contemporary young adults mean that the patterns observed among prior cohorts do not necessarily apply to respondents in Add Health, who are coming of age in a different economic and social atmosphere. My other research projects are similarly focused on inequalities in adults’ health and well-being. A paper based on my master’s thesis and co-authored with my thesis advisor, Robin Simon, explores functional limitation status and gender differences in the emotional benefits of marriage using two nationally-representative longitudinal samples of adults in mid-life. Published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in summer 2013, the study shows that the relationship between marriage and a range of mental health outcomes varies by adults’ functional limitation status and gender. Dr. Simon and I are exploring health inequalities centered around another major social role in two papers that explore parental status differences in mental and physical health. I am also completing work on two projects that explore the relationships between mortality and discrimination and caregiving, respectively, with Eliza Pavalko and Melissa Hardy. In addition to my research endeavors, I have designed and am teaching an undergraduate level course in social psychology. I have served as a teaching assistant for a range of undergraduate courses, including introductory statistics courses, as well as Gender Roles, Mental Illness, and Medical Sociology. I have also had the opportunity to serve as the graduate student mentor for an undergraduate honors thesis course here at IU, providing the  students with methodological and writing feedback on their individual research projects.