The University of Chicago has a long history of research on gender and family, with feminist scholarship a more recent addition. The study of the family may have started at the University of Chicago with Ernest Burgess. In 1926 Burgess wrote a paper titled "The Family as a Unity of Interacting Personalities," which defined a course of family research that he was to carry out. He launched the first-ever longitudinal survey in the U.S., which followed engaged couples and resulted in the book Predicting Success or Failure in Marriage (in collaboration with Leonard L. Cottrell, Jr.). Burgess also wrote the leading textbook in the field, The Family, and with Paul Wallin, Engagement and Marriage. Burgess taught a popular course on the family and many of the first generation of teachers in marriage and family were Burgess' students from Chicago.

Gender and feminist theory are taught and studied both in courses and research within the sociology department and in a variety of interdisciplinary contexts. Focusing on gender as a structure of meaning which constitutes not only individual bodies, but larger social structures as well, we do this work outside explicitly gender-focused projects and classes as well as within them. Outside the department, the interdisciplinary aspects of this work are centered on the Center for Gender Studies.

Research on the family takes place both in the projects of individual faculty members and in research centers. Faculty research on the family includes Linda Waite's research on marriage and cohabitation, on working families (with Barbara Schneider), and on family and health at older ages, William Parish's work on sexual behavior in China, Edward Laumann's project with Parish on sexual networking in Chicago neighborhoods, Ross Stolzenberg's research on the effect of husbands' and wives' paid and family work on health and Barbara Schneider's research on the role of families in the achievement of adolescents.


Kristen Schilt

Linda Waite

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Linda Waite

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The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, directed by Lauren Berlant, Professor of English Language and Literature. In the Center, gender scholars from Sociology and elsewhere in the University collaborate in running a bi-weekly workshop in which graduate students, University faculty and outside speakers present work in progress. The Center also sponsors graduate and undergraduate classes and a variety of speaker and funding programs.

The Population Research Center, directed by Professor William Parish, and the Center on Aging, directed by Professor Linda Waite, also have ongoing foci of interest in the determinants of morbidity and mortality, as well as in the impact of health policy. Of particular relevance to students and other investigators, these two centers support an extraordinarily deep data library (with extremely large holding of public use data and talented support staff) and ample and secure computing environments.

The Alfred P. Sloan Center on Parents, Children and Work, Children and Work, co-directed by Professors Barbara Schneider and Linda Waite. The Center on Parents, Children, and Work at the University of Chicago and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) was established in 1997 to examine issues facing contemporary working families, focuses on how parents who are working full-time manage the conflicting demands of work and family. The Center involves faculty members and graduate students from a range of disciplines: sociology, economics, psychology, human development, and public policy. One of the Center's central goals is to train and develop scholars in the field of working families.

NORC, a national organization for research at the University of Chicago, with offices on the University's campus, in Chicago's downtown Loop, and in Washington DC, as well as a nationwide field staff. NORC's clients include government agencies, educational institutions, foundations, other nonprofit organizations, and private corporations. Although its national studies are its best known, NORC's projects–which include complex survey and other data collection strategies as well as sophisticated empirical analyses–range across local, regional, and international perspectives as well. NORC's project work is done in an interdisciplinary framework, with frequent collaboration across substantive areas.

Finally, students interested in the study of gender, family and feminist theory at the University of Chicago may participate in the University's workshop system, where local and international scholars present their work on a weekly basis in an intentionally interdisciplinary environment. The workshops of special interest to students interested in gender, family and feminist theory include the Demography Workshop, the Working Families Workshop, the Culture Workshop, the Poverty Workshop, the Reproduction of Race and Racial Ideologies Workshop, the Gender and Sexuality Workshop, and the Theory and Insurgency Workshop.