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Brian Powell

Brian Powell

Brian Powell is James H. Rudy Professor, Department Chair, and Co-Director of the Preparing Future Faculty program at the Department of Sociology. Brian's research interests have focused on family sociology, sociology of education, gender, and social psychology. With grants from the National Science Foundation, American Education Research Association, and the Spencer Foundation, Brian has examined how families confer advantages (or disadvantages) to their children and how structural and compositional features of families (e.g., parental age, family size, birth order, one vs. two-parent households, inter-racial composition, adoptive vs. biological parents) influence parental social, intellectual and economic investments in children. He is especially interested in several increasingly visible groups of "atypical" family forms: families with older parents, bi/multiracial families, adoptive families and gay/lesbian families.

Brian Powell's COUNTED OUT: Same-Sex Relations and Americans' Definitions of Family (Russell Sage Foundation, 2010), coauthored with IU PhDs Catherine Bolzendahl and Claudia Geist and Lala Carr Steelman from the University of South Carolina, moves beyond previous efforts to understand how Americans view their own families by examining the way Americans characterize the concept of family in general.

COUNTED OUT reports on and analyzes the results of the authors' Constructing the Family Surveys (2003 and 2006), which were collected while Brian was the Director of the Sociological Research Practicum.  These surveys asked more than 1500 people to explain their stances on a broad range of issues, including gay marriage and adoption, single parenthood, the influence of biological and social factors in child development, religious ideology, and the legal rights of unmarried partners. With current IU graduate students, he is examining patterns from the 2010 Constructing the Family Survey.  In addition, he is exploring Americans’ views regarding the role of parents, children, and the government in college funding.

Other publications have examined:

*similarities and differences in the experiences of children who live with their same-sex parent and of their peers who live with an opposite sex parent (American Sociological Review, 1997, with IU PhD Doug Downey)

*factors shaping children's perceptions and evaluations of parental roles (Social Psychology Quarterly 1997, with IU PhDs Melissa Milkie and Robin Simon)

*the applicability of recent claims about the effects of birth order on innovative thinking in the contemporary United States (American Sociological Review, 1999, with IU PhD Jeremy Freese and Lala Carr Steelman)

*the extent to which sociobiological explanations add to or detract from sociological understandings of parental investments (American Journal of Sociology, 1999, with Jeremy Freese)

*how race and ethnicity are treated in sociological social psychology (Social Psychology Quarterly, 2000, with Lala Carr Steelman, fellow IU professor Pamela Braboy Jackson, and IU PhD Matt Hunt).

*the role of political generations in shaping feminist self-identification (American Sociological Review, 2003, with Jeremy Freese and IU PhD Jason Schnittker)

*challenges that sociologists face when studying “atypical” families (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2005, with IU PhD Simon Cheng)

*the extent to which emotional management at work and at home is structurally and situationally determined (Social Psychology Quarterly, 2006, with former IU post-doctoral fellow Kathryn Lively)

*how parental age is linked to the conferral of advantages and disadvantages to children (Social Forces, 2006, with Lala Carr Steelman and IU PhD Robert Carini).

*whether biracial families differ from monoracial families in their investments in their children (American Journal of Sociology, 2007, with Simon Cheng)

*the extent to which parental biological ties are (or are not) critical to children’s wellbeing (American Sociological Review, 2007, with IU PhD Laura Hamilton and Simon Cheng)

*the relative influence of schools and families on children’s obesity (American Journal of Public Health, 2007, with Doug Downey and Paul von Hippel).

*the emotional implications of fair and unfair division of domestic labor (Social Psychology Quarterly, 2010, with Kathryn Lively and Lala Carr Steelman).

*Americans’ views regarding marital name change (Gender and Society, 2011, with Laura Hamilton and Claudia Geist)