The overarching focus of my research is to investigate differential criminal behavior development, particularly as influenced by gender and trauma across the lifespan.
In the broadest sense, I am driven by a question that has followed me for two decades. How do people come to the point where they make decisions to hurt one another? I am interested in all facets of this phenomenon, particularly when the violence created is directed toward a victim of lesser power or a lower capacity for self-protection. I explore what types of situational or relational circumstances have played a role in this process, what institutional or societal forces have influenced these choices, and what chemical, developmental, or psychological conditions have contributed. It is my belief that violent or criminal behavior is not necessarily a product of one of these factors, but rather a complex and individualized sum of the intrapsychic, interpersonal, and socio-cultural forces that make us all who we are.
I am highly interested in the differential nature by which gender, relationships, and families of origin play roles in these maladaptive behavioral trajectories and the outcomes of their associated behaviors. I explore not only individual and group traits associated with gender, but also social constructions of gender and social expectations which drive culturally influenced behavior. I pay particular attention to factors that have traditionally contributed to the marginalization of women, children, and sexual and/or gender minorities. I am also interested in concepts of post-traumatic growth, hope, and resiliency. I am fascinated in the differential nature by which people endure significant experiences of trauma and marginalization, and yet function in healthy, productive, and meaningful ways. I am committed to the assertive dissemination and application of this work with the overarching goal to reduce experiences of violence in our communities. It does not fit my professional mission, or the mission of my research, to simply understand violent or criminal behavior development absent of the application of this new knowledge to reduce victimization. Rather, my commitment is to continue the effort I started some two decades ago. I aim to do everything within my power to apply the knowledge I am creating through my research agenda to create safer homes and communities for our families and children, and healthier, happier, violence-free trajectories in the lives of our citizens.