Public Sociology

uwcrestPublic sociology is about taking academic research and making it applicable to the everyday lives of men and women at a local, national and global level.

I’ve really been trained as a public sociologist from the start: I worked at The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post during my summers in graduate school, learning the art of storytelling alongside the rigors of research. I’ve discussed my research on Good Morning America, I’ve given public lectures on Generation WTF and Love in the Time of Hookups, and I’m outspoken about why Success is Sexy.


My public sociology work is included in my Speaking and Journalism as well, so check out those links for more details as well.

Currently I am the Director of MORE: Money, Relationships and Equality, a relationships, finance and life fulfillment initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As an interdisciplinary scholar and public sociologist, my job is to shape national dialogue to establish equality for women and men in relationships, family life and financial decision making, while embracing central questions of self-worth, purpose and meaning for both individuals and couples throughout the life course. Y’know, just small stuff.

My previous research includes work on mate preferences, self-help and changing ideas of dating and marriage.


Recent Publications & Major Media Citations:

Money and Relationships
Channel 3000, WISC-TV
January 23, 2019

Consuming Happiness this Holiday Season
Channel 3000, WISC-TV
December 14, 2018

WILD 5 book forward with Dr. Charles Raison

How voting contributes to overall well-being
Channel 3000, WISC-TV
October 29, 2018

SoHE’s Christine Whelan on her time in the media
UW-Madison News, September 25, 2018

Doctor’s tips: How to cope with negative news
Channel 3000, WISC-TV
August 29, 2018

What’s next? UW professor discusses big picture questions for recent grads
Channel 3000, WISC-TV
May 23, 2018

How the weather affects your mood
Channel 3000, WISC-TV
April 18, 2018

Self-Help gurus like Tony Robbins have often stood in the way of social change
Washington Post, April 13, 2018

Spring cleaning, focusing on yourself
Channel 3000, WISC-TV
March 28, 2018

Valentine’s Day: Talk Money with Your Honey
Public News Service
February 14, 2018

How to discover your purpose and deal with advice – with Christine Whelan
Resilience Unravelled with Dr. Russel Thackeray (Podcast)
January 29, 2018

Making your New Year’s resolutions stick
Channel 3000, WISC-TV
January 2, 2018

First boy doll, Logan, joins American Girl line
Channel 3000, WISC-TV
February 15, 2017

What every twentysomething needs to know about finding love’s purpose
Verily, January 6, 2017

Expert talks about how to reduce holiday stress
Channel 3000, WISC-TV
November 30, 2016

Finding your purpose at any age with Dr. Christine Whelan
Engaging Presence (Podcast), November 21, 2016

Consume Happiness: Six Research-backed Tips for Buying Well-being this Holiday Season
Money, Relationships, and Equality (MORE), November 2016

America Needs a Time Out
Acculturated, November 9th, 2016

Calendaring on Purpose 
Acculturated, July 14th, 2016

Seek Your Purpose Before Your Paycheck 
Acculturated, May 23, 2016

Top 5 Things to Say (and NOT Say) to a New College Graduate
Acculturated, May 20, 2016

How to Build Good Habits – And Actually Make Them Stick
The Washington Post, March 2, 2015

Self-Help & Self-Improvement
BBC 4 Thinking Allowed interview on the history and popularity of the industry, December 2014

Resolutions in Focus
Life Reimagined 3-day online program, November 2014

Complete Your Goal With Self-Control
Life Reimagined 7-day online program, November 2014

“The New Life Phase: An Overview”
The Life Reimagined Institute, October 2014

“All the Conventional Cohabitation, but No Nuptials”
The New York Times, July 6, 2014

“A Roundabout Path to Self-Help”
The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 2, 2013

“Marriage is Not a Dirty Word for College Women”
The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2, 2013

“Measuring Mate Preferences: A Replication and Extension”
Journal of Family Issues, with Christie F. Boxer and Mary C. Noonan, Spring 2013

“Making Marriage Work: A History of Marriage and Divorce in the Twentieth-Century United States”
Journal of Social History, Spring 2011

A Feminist Friendly Recession?
The State of Our Unions, 2009

Mate Preferences:

It’s the perennial question: What do men and women want in a mate?  Since the 1930s, researchers have been asking college men and women to rank 18 characteristics on a scale of unimportant to extremely important–and my, how times have changed! The headline over seven decades is the rise in importance of love and mutual attraction — and the decline of chastity: Ranked #5 for women and #4 for men in 1939, in 2008, love and mutual attraction is topping the charts for both sexes, while chastity, ranked #10 for both men and women in the 1930s, has plummeted to dead last in 2008. For men, a woman’s education and her ability to earn a good income has become a top-tier priority, while her housekeeping skills have fallen low down on the list of a man’s desired traits, a trend that began in the 1970s survey, and continues today. For women, a man’s desire for a family is on the rise and whether he’s got a “pleasing disposition” seems less important than it was even a decade ago.

With my terrific co-authors, Christie Boxer and Mary Noonan, we published this research in the Journal of Family Issues in 2013: “Measuring Mate Preferences: A Replication and Extension” 

If you want to nerd out, this is a really cool chart. History in action—watch the changing mate preferences over time.




doctoralI wrote my doctoral dissertation on the self-help industry – who buys self-help books and why. If you are a glutton for punishment, I’d be happy to send you the entire 100,000-word tome. But to get the general idea, here are some tidbits.

I argue that the increasing popularity of self-help books is an indicator of the modern American quest to maximize personal happiness through a process of self-discovery. Self-help books – non-fiction books that offer advice for behavior modification and make explicit promises for positive change – have doubled as a percentage of all book titles since the 1970s. My dissertation explores the demographic profile of self-help readers, the marketing and advertising strategies of the self- help industry and the formula of a self-help bestseller.

The following documents of the Doctoral dissertation
abstract are available in PDF format:
▶ Short Version
▶ Long Version
▶ Table of Contents

Changing Dating and Marriage Patterns:

mastersI wrote my master’s thesis on changing dating and marriage patterns in the U.S. since the 1960s. Or, put in academic terms, it was a study of changing commitment patterns among American young men and women during the second half of the 20th century using gendered magazines like Playboy and Cosmopolitan as guidebooks for evolving courtship rituals. Yes, I read Playboy and Cosmo for my master’s degree. And yes, I have plenty of stories to share about the hilarity of such primary-source research. In my thesis I argued that these magazines offer insights into the choices, fantasies and ambitions of young men and women since 1965. How has advice to men and women changed – and did magazines reflect, set or simply provide an escape from the actual trends for dating and marriage in 20th-century America?

The following documents of the Masters dissertation
abstract are available in PDF format:
▶ Abstract
▶ Table of Contents