Research Interests

My original research training was in the study of adolescent sexual offenders and sexual aggression, and I still retain this interest–I am very slowly pursuing the delicate process of working with this population in Texas. I have expanded this interest by studying public perceptions of sex offenders and preferences for punishment versus rehabilitation, and (more recently) sexual aggression and abuse in the US-Mexico border region.

SOAP (the Sexual Offense and Aggression Project, a.k.a. the Border Experiences Project) is “my” laboratory, where several dedicated research assistants and I work to understand the dynamics of sexual abuse and offense in the Borderlands region of Deep South Texas. We have done this in a variety of ways, including the following (see the BEP website for more specifics about these projects as they develop):

  • Experimental Studies of Sexual Aggression (ESSA). Nice acronym, eh? Those don’t happen by accident. Anyway, the SOAP team and I have recently (Spring 2012) been awarded a small institutional grant to complete a pilot project in which we hope to develop a paradigm for experimentally studying the influence of situational (and other) factors on sexual aggression in everyday situations, from within a laboratory setting. Wish us luck. And if you have some kind of expertise in this area, please drop a line ūüôā
  • Participant-Driven Sampling. We have applied Chad Richardson’s highly successful “embedded researcher” data collection method to the study of sexual abuse and offense in the Borderlands region, through the students in my Sexual Abuse and Sexual Offense class at UTPA (in 2011) and with a $15,000 grant from the South Texas Health Disparities Research Center (in 2010).
  • Studying Sex Offenders. In 2010 we also completed a survey of many behaviors and attitudes of a group of about 70 Hispanic sex offenders on probation in Hidalgo County, Texas. These results are moving toward publication.
  • The “Big 5 Project”¬†is a¬†multifaceted data collection project undertaken¬†as a¬†collaboration between UTPA colleagues Amy Weimer, Alfonso Mercado, Gary Montgomery, Kristin Croyle, and Fred Ernst and¬†faculty from two universities in Mexico (UANL in Monterrey and UdG in Guadalajara). This project serves partly as a data collection vehicle for a larger study managed by¬†Antonio Terracciano, a researcher with the National Institutes of Health working with the research team of Costa and MacRae, pioneers in developing the Five Factor model of personality.¬†My own interest in this project, besides coordinating the involvement of all the players, is the collection of data from two separate waves (2009 and 2011) of over 500 UTPA undergraduate participants each and about 300 Mexican university students, regarding sexual aggression and abuse. A graduate student, Michelle Varon, used these data for her thesis on a study of personality and attachment as correlates of sexual deviance.
  • Sexual Abuse in the Border Archive was an archival study from 2007/2008 in which Katrina Meza, Elida Decker, Jennifer Sibley, and I searched for “spontaneously inserted” narratives of sexual aggression or victimization in the massive (>>10,000 interviews) Borderlands Archive, developed by Chad Richardson over the past thirty years.

Although my core focus is described above, other research projects focus on Hispanic student academic support; a study of spiritual integration, spearheaded by Van and Mary Ann Reidhead, with Gary Montgomery and Susan Skidmore; and various projects in which I am (or have been) peripherally involved in one way or another.

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