Elizabeth Culatta

PhD date: May, 2018
Status: On the Market
Curriculum Vitae:
Dissertation Title: Identity Processes during the Transition to Adulthood: The Effect of Self-Views and Reflected Appraisals on Health Risk Behaviors and Mental Health
Dissertation Chair:
Dissertation Committee:
Dissertation Committee (External):
About Elizabeth Culatta:

I am a doctoral candidate in my final year of the graduate program at the Department of Sociology at UGA. My research interests are in identity processes across the life course with a focus on mental health during the transition to adulthood. My teaching interests are in sociological theory, gender and work, social psychology, and the life course.

The common thread in my research is a focus on the processes of identity and justice, especially during the transition to adulthood.  My focus in my dissertation, a publication in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior and a first authored publication at the Journal of Interpersonal Violence is the effect of identity processes, demographic and lifestyle factors, and romantic relationship quality on outcomes of mental and physical health, participation in risky behaviors, and sexual revictimization during the transition to adulthood.  The topic of my thesis and a publication in Sociology Compass is (in)justice in the workplace. The effects of perceptions of identity and justice during this point in the life course are central to my research.

My dissertation research focuses on the identity issues experienced in the transition to adulthood.  To explore these ideas, I gathered original survey data from a diverse sample of over 500 18-29 year-olds. One chapter of my dissertation focuses on perceptions of oneself as an adult serving as a resource for minimizing participation in risky or deviant behaviors.  Preliminary analyses suggest that indeed viewing oneself as an adult is associated with being less likely to participate in risky driving habits, drug use, binge drinking, and risky sexual behaviors. Another chapter examines how when people perceive they are falling behind others’ expectations for accomplishing life course transitions, they will experience psychological distress.   

In my published work, I have focused on other important aspects of early adulthood, such as romantic relationships and sexual revictimization.  In collaboration with Dr. Ashley Barr and Dr. Ron Simons, I investigated the effect of relationship quality and stability on mental and physical health in a longitudinal sample of African American young adults.  We argued that using a holistic, multidimensional assessment of relationships was more predictive of outcomes than the presence of a relationship.  Using latent class analysis, we found that particular patterns of instability in relationship quality are associated with health outcomes overlooked in research that focuses solely on relationship status.  In a first authored paper with Dr. Jody Clay-Warner, Dr. Kait Boyle, and Dr. Assaf Oshri, I examined the factors that contribute to sexual revictimization during adolescence and young adulthood using a routine activity theory framework.  Specifically, we used structural equation modeling to understand the effect of depressive symptomology and substance use on the likelihood of sexual revictimization among a longitudinal sample of young women.  We found evidence that depressive symptoms (though not substance use) increase the risk of sexual revictimization. 

In other research, I have explored the effects of justice perceptions in the workplace on mental health outcomes.  In my thesis, I used theories of identity to explain the variation in the relationship between distributive injustice and psychological distress using a longitudinal nationally representative sample of Australians.  Specifically, I examined how multiple role-identities moderated the relationship between feeling under-rewarded in the workplace and psychological distress.  This research emphasizes the importance of social support for reducing psychological distress related to workplace under-reward.  I have also collaborated with Dr. Jody Clay-Warner and Dr. Katie James on a publication that addressed the literature on gender and justice preferences.  We suggest that the perceived gender differences in organizational justice preferences and allocations are driven by status differences between men and women and not the gender essentialism sometimes assumed in justice research.

My teaching experience includes responsibility for multiple sections of the department's required undergraduate Sociological Theory course, a course on Gender and Work, Introduction to Sociology and a class about The Life Course.  Through three years of teaching, I have consistently received outstanding student evaluations for my effectiveness, preparation, and ability to guide classroom discussions.  My teaching efforts were recently recognized by the University of Georgia when I was awarded the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, an honor presented to less than 10% of the University’s graduate student teaching population.  I also recently received the Department of Sociology’s Beck Graduate Student Teaching Award.  I am well-qualified to teach additional core courses in sociology, such as Introduction to Sociology, Social Problems, Social Inequality, and Research Methods.  I am prepared to teach courses in a number of substantive areas, including courses related to the life course, gender, family, and health.  I would also be excited to develop special topics courses on identity, transitions to adulthood, or upper level social psychology courses, as needed.

In addition to my dedication to research and teaching, I have been an engaged citizen of my discipline and department. At the national level, I was elected as the student representative to the Council of ASA’s Social Psychology Section, currently serve on the nominations committee, and I have served on the graduate student advisory committee for the Section.  As a member of the graduate student advisory committee, I worked with other members of the committee to survey student members about their attitudes toward the section and their thoughts regarding how the section could increase the involvement of its student members. I then wrote and presented a report recommending ways to recruit and support student members of the section.  I have also been involved in departmental service each year of graduate school including serving as the President of our Sociology Graduate Student Society, as well as serving on a faculty recruitment committees, and representing the graduate students in faculty meetings.