Sociology Theses and Dissertations

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    (2023) Ye, Jing; Chen, Feinian; Sociology; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This dissertation consists of three papers that investigate the working and caregiving roles of middle-to-older adults and their implications for well-being in China. While existing literature predominantly focuses on older adults as care recipients, this research sheds light on the significant number of older individuals who actively participate in the labor market and provide informal caregiving to family members. Studies usually focus on either caregiving or employment while keeping the other in the background, leaving the intersection of work and caregiving responsibilities understudied. I then ask whether and how work-life conflicts, commonly discussed in the context of middle-aged women, are also applicable to the older population and are shaped by gender. Using data from the China Health and Retirement Study, the study investigates work and caregiving patterns among middle-to-older adults and explores the well-being consequences of juggling these roles. Furthermore, the research examines whether gender-based patterns persist in work and caregiving dynamics during this stage of life. The study is conducted in China, a developing country experiencing accelerated population aging, and the boundaries between work and family responsibilities are less distinct compared to developed societies. Early retirement age in the formal sector provides opportunities for older workers to engage in caregiving, while informal sector and agricultural workers may need to continue working until old age due to low pension rates. The culture of filial piety and intergenerational solidarity further encourages older generations to provide financial and caregiving support to their younger family members, leading to the common occurrence of middle-to-older adults taking on both work and caregiving roles. The first paper explores the association between living arrangements and middle-to-older adults’ work prospects, considering gender and work sector differences. The second paper examines the impacts of living arrangements on role transitions, especially the transitions of workers and worker-caregivers given their prevalence, while also considering the moderating effects of gender and residence. The third paper investigates the joint impact of work and informal caregiving on mental well-being, analyzing the differential effects based on intensity, gender, residence, socioeconomic status, and social isolation level. In the context of accelerated aging in developing countries, this dissertation highlights the contributions of middle-to-older adults and emphasizes the need for investment in and design of long-term care services to meet the demands of rapidly aging populations.
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    Mothers as Agents of Social Change in the Movement Against Sexual Violence
    (2023) Drotning, Kelsey J.; Cohen, Philip N; Sociology; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    My dissertation examines how the #MeToo movement is changing generational understandings of sexual violence. Through this research, I examine how sexual violence is both a cause and a consequence of systemic gender and race inequality. Using eighteen in-depth semi-structured interviews of mothers with at least one child aged five-years or older, I investigate three sets of questions. First, how are mothers evaluating their own experiences with sexual violence post #MeToo movement? Second, how is sexual violence part of mother-child conversations about sexual behavior? Third, how do mothers; social location contribute to how they feel about the #MeToo movement and how they teach their children about sexual violence? My findings suggest mothers are transmitting new understandings of sexual violence to their children. Specifically, mothers are teaching their children that appropriate touch, sexual or nonsexual, cannot be determined using a binary yes or no standard of consent. Their approach to sex education is driven by their own experiences with sex that was violating and/or nonconsensual and consideration of their own and their children's social location. Overall, my findings demonstrate the #MeToo movement and other associated events have ushered in a change in mothers' rape consciousness which is facilitating change in children's sex education. If successful, mothers will have contributed to decreased prevalence of sexual violence as these children age into adolescence and adulthood.
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    Interaction Patterns in the Neighborhood Tavern
    (1971) Bissonette, Raymond Peter; Lejins, Peter P.; Sociology; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md)
    This study was undertaken in order to develop a systematic description and analysis of the social reality of the public drinking establishment with special reference to the neighborhood workingman's tavern. The perspective adopted was a focus on the non-pathological aspects of behavior associated with the consumption of beverage alcohol. Underlying this point of departure was the recognition that most research on drinking behavior is related to alcoholism but most drinking is not. The study had two purposes: first to attempt a descriptive analysis of social interaction in the tavern setting by translating observed behavior into relatively standard sociological concepts of norm, role, ecology, and communication. Beyond the descriptive purpose of this approach was the expectation that the organization of observations into such a conceptual scheme would enhance the scientific utility of the effort by providing for assimilability and comparability of the data with other research and theory. The second purpose was to test a new theoretical focus for its adequacy as an explanatory model. The focus is on behavior in public and semi-public places - an area falling some where between group studies on the one hand and studies of collective behavior on the other. The major component of this theoretical framework is the mechanism of involvement allocation which refers to the ways in which actors regulate the duration and intensity of their involvement in interpersonal interaction. As was anticipated much of what is unique to sociability in the tavern setting was explainable in terms of involvement allocation. Principally responsible for this is the fact that a tavern, regardless of its official definition, has the dual functions of dispensary and social event. Although the tavern is a prototypic case for involvement allocation it was concluded that this explanatory model might have wide application in interpersonal and intergroup behavior. The data were collected over a three year period by means of participant observation in a wide variety of settings. The core data represent observations taken over a two year period in four selected neighborhood taverns. The synchronic observation of these case taverns were then supplemented by spot observations taken in over one hundred other establishments. The third source of data was the published findings of similar and related studies. The contrast and comparison provided by these additional data aid considerably in verifying the raw data and their interpretation - an inherent problem in this kind of approach. The findings demonstrate that the social reality of the tavern setting consists in patterned behavior amenable to systematic description and analysis. Drinking is a never-present variable but rarely an exclusive preoccupation. A more fruitful approach in understanding the role of drinking in such a setting is to focus on its social rather than physiological consequences. As a part of the definition of the tavern, drinking is always an accepted major involvement and as such affords the individual considerable flexibility in his involvement in the social activities occurring simultaneously. Throughout the study much of what is characteristic of tavern behavior is explained in terms of the involvement allocation options offered by the tavern's dual function as dispensary and social event.
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    Gender-Specific Significance of Family Transitions on Well-being and Work Attitudes
    (2022) Hara, Yuko; Chen, Feinian; Sociology; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Marriage and parenthood are major life events for many individuals. Marriage is linked with improved health partly through spousal influence on health-related behaviors including diet. Previous theoretical and qualitative research suggests a link between family transitions and meal patterns. Yet empirical research using a nationally representative sample to examine the association is scarce. And the issues of whether spousal influence on health-related behaviors can be extended to other types of romantic relationships, such as cohabitation, as well as whether the transition to parenthood is linked with changes in meal patterns, have not been adequately researched. Additionally, research examining whether the health benefits that marriage brings can be universally found for both genders across countries is limited. Family life events carry other consequences, too. Prior research also suggests that family life often has a negative impact on attitudes toward paid work, particularly for women. Past research, however, primarily relied on small sample interview data or cross-sectional data, leaving unclear how work attitudes change during adulthood. This dissertation examines the impact of different family life events such as marriage, cohabitation, and parenthood on changes in subjective well-being, health-related behavior (meal patterns), and attitudes towards work by gender. I focus on adults in their prime work and family life stages in the U.S. and Japan. By using fixed effects models and panel data, I aimed to estimate the average effect of family life events within individuals over time. I found that entering a romantic union reduces meal skipping, but the type of union matters differently for men and women. I also found that the transition to parenthood discourages women’s regular meal patterns, suggesting family ties do not necessarily facilitate healthy behaviors. In the highly gendered social context of Japan, contrary to previous findings from Western industrialized countries, I found no evidence indicating that marriage is associated with self-rated health for women. Additionally, I found that the transition to parenthood is negatively linked with men’s self-rated health. In terms of work attitudes, even when controlling for various job characteristics, I found that both marriage and parenthood are negatively associated with enthusiasm toward work achievement, only for women in Japan. These findings highlight the importance of country context and reveal that entry into marriage triggers shifts in women’s work attitudes even before having children.
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    (2022) Duan, Haoshu; Chen, Feinian; Sociology; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This dissertation consists of three papers that investigate the long-term family caregiving patterns among Chinese and American older adults. Family caregiving has long been an essential fabric of long-term care services. Due to the prolonged life expectancy and the declined family size, older adults today are more likely to care for multiple family members for longer years than the previous cohorts. However, studies on caregiving predominately focus on singular care experiences over a short period time. As older adults transition into and out of multiple care roles, the overall caregiving patterns are overlooked. Leveraging two rich longitudinal datasets (the China Health and Retirement Study and the Health and Retirement Study), this dissertation aims to fill this current research gap by developing long-term family caregiving typologies. The first paper develops a care typology for Chinese older adults, and thoroughly assesses how gender, hukou status, living arrangement, and significant life transitions are associated with the long-term caregiving patterns. In the second paper, using linear mixed-effects models, I continue exploring the positive and negative health consequences of each caregiving pattern among Chinese older adults. The third paper focuses on developing a long-term family caregiving pattern for American older adults. In addition to prolonged life expectancies and the decline in family size, the U.S. has experienced complex transitions in family structures over the past few decades, leading to more diverse family networks and international relations in later life. After establishing the long-term care typology, the third paper pays closer attention to the variations of family caregiving patterns across the War Babies cohort, Early Baby Boomer, and the Middle/Late Baby Boomer cohort. Moreover, I explore how gender, race, and socioeconomic status are linked with these patterns. In the context of global aging, this dissertation highlights the heterogeneity in the family caregiving experiences and identifies the most vulnerable demographic groups who shoulder the heaviest care burden over time. In the end, the findings from the dissertation provide guidance for the investment and design of long-term care services in rapidly aging contexts.