Assistant Professor of Sociology
Phone: (561) 297-3270
Office: CU 259/Boca Campus
Research: Social Problems, Culture, Social Interaction, Gender, Sexuality, Sociology of the Body, Childhood, Family, Deviance, Qualitative Methods
Teaching: Self and Society, Youth and Society, The Social Construction of Sexuality, Sociology of the Body
Dr. Laura Backstrom joined the faculty of the sociology department at FAU in Fall 2016 after earning her Ph.D. from Indiana University. Her research focuses on the social construction of social problems related to children and young adults and how children understand and negotiate social problems in their everyday lives. She is particularly interested in issues related to body size, gender, sexuality, and family. Her past research has appeared in The Journal of Sex Research, Sociological Forum, and Ethnography.
Professor Backstrom’s book Weighty Problems was published in 2019 by Rutgers University Press. Weighty Problems is the first book to use ethnographic data collected at a children’s weight loss camp to analyze the interactional processes that children use to understand and problematize their bodies. By investigating how contemporary cultural discourses of childhood obesity are experienced by children, this book illustrates how deeply fat stigma is internalized in the early socialization experiences of children. Weighty Problems details processes of embodied inequality: how the children came to recognize inequalities related to their body size, how they explained the causes of those differences, how they responded to micro-level injustices in their lives, and how their participation in a weight loss program impacted their developing self-image. The book examines how embodied inequality is constructed and negotiated through interactional processes including resocialization, stigma management, social comparisons, and attribution.
Professor Backstrom is currently working on two research projects. The first project examines the relationship between antiobesity discourse and childhood obesity policy between 1999-2018. The second project analyzes decision making in Florida’s child dependency system and assesses the impact of Guardian ad Litems on case outcomes.
At FAU, Professor Backstrom’s contribution to the sociology department’s curriculum centers on the areas of sexuality, the body, childhood, and the self. Her courses are rigorously writing-centered and challenge students to apply research skills to the course’s topic. She regularly teaches Self and Society, Youth and Society, Sociology of the Body and The Social Construction of Sexuality at the undergraduate level. Professor Backstrom is currently the Director of the BA Honors Program for the sociology department. Her graduate seminars include Research Methods and Design, Sociology of Childhood, and Sociology of the Family. Professor Backstrom enjoys working with graduate students on their research projects through Directed Independent Study projects and serving on MA thesis committees. She recently co-authored a paper entitled “Dependence, Resilience, and Resentment: The Impact of Parental Support on Disadvantaged College Students,” with Ashley Ostroot, a former FAU graduate student.
Backstrom, Laura. 2019. Weighty Problems: Embodied Inequality at a Children’s Weight Loss Camp. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Backstrom, Laura. 2016. “Embodied Resocialization at a Children’s Weight Loss Camp.” Ethnography 17(4): 539-558.
Backstrom, Laura. 2012. “From the Freak Show to the Living Room: Cultural Representations of Dwarfism and Obesity.” Sociological Forum 27(3): 682-707.
Backstrom, Laura, Elizabeth A. Armstrong, and Jennifer Puentes. 2012. “Women’s Negotiation of Cunnilingus in College Hookups and Relationships.” Journal of Sex Research 49(1): 1-12.