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Melissa Milkie (002)

Welcome! I am Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto & Chair of the Graduate department. As a social psychologist impassioned with analyzing well-being in a changing world, I address research questions using interactionist, life course, and stress process models.

My research spans the areas of gender, family, culture, and mental health.

A central strand of my research focuses on family stressors such as parenting strains & work-family conflicts, and how these link to health and well-being. Examples include 1) how feelings about time with children and relationships with and lives of adult children are linked to mothers’ and fathers’ mental health and 2) how parenting inequality links to relationship quality. A current grant project assesses mothers’ well-being and mother-teen relationships among Syrian refugees settled around Toronto.

How do we experience family life, and how has this changed? Another key stream of my work centers on these questions, with a special focus on time use. Our award-winning book, Changing Rhythms of American Family Life documents parents’ feelings about time and family life, and how mothers’ and fathers’ time with children and time in housework, paid work and leisure has changed over recent decades. Using time diaries, we show increases in mothers’ and married fathers’ time in child care as a primary activity. Married fathers’ total contact time with children also increased significantly.  In related work, I 1) conceptualize mothers’ vigilant work to ensure children’s place in the social and economic hierarchy as “status safeguarding” and 2) examine how parents’ time with children connects to parents’ and to children’s well-being. Other studies examine children’s views of what makes mothers and fathers special, parents’ assessments of the division of childcare, and adults’ views of their childhoods. This work underscores how culture and social statuses like gender shape meanings about family across different eras.

Another strand of my research focuses on cultural meanings, identities and media frames linked to social groups; including mothers, fathers, girls, African-Americans, and feminists and how these frames influence us. Recent projects include 1) the “Mommy Wars” in news media and 2) changes in depictions of the benefits of father involvement and blame for fathers’ low involvement with children in Parents’ Magazine (1926-2006).

My research is published in Social Forces, Society and Mental HealthJournal of Marriage and Family, American Sociological Review, Social Psychology QuarterlyGender & Society and more. Courses I teach include the Sociology of Mental Health, Social Psychology, and Lives & Times: Socialization across the Life Course.

Curriculum Vitae