Publications by Author: Brian Powell


Powell B, Hamilton L, Manago B, Cheng S. “Implications of Changing Family Forms for Children. ” Annual Review of Sociology. 2016;42:1–10.


Hamilton L, Geist C, Powell B. Marital Name Change as a Window into Gender Attitudes. Gender & Society. 2011;25(2):145–175.

The need to revise scholars’ approach to the measurement of gender attitudes — long dominated by the separate-spheres paradigm — is growing increasingly timely as women’s share of the labor force approaches parity with men’s. Recent years have seen revived interest in marital name change as a gendered practice with the potential to aid in this task; however, scholars have yet to test its effectiveness as one possible indicator of gender attitudes. In this article we present views toward marital name change as a potential window into contemporary gender attitudes and most centrally as an illustration of the types of measures that hold great potential for attitudinal research. Using quantitative analyses from a national survey, we show that views on name change reflect expected sociodemographic cleavages and are more strongly linked to a wide array of other gender-related attitudes than are views regarding gendered separate spheres — even net of sociodemographic factors. We then turn to interlinked qualitative data to illustrate three reasons why name-change measures so effectively capture broader beliefs about gender. We conclude by looking at what attitudes about name change can tell us about future directions for the conceptualization and measurement of gender attitudes.

Hamilton L, Cheng S, Powell B. Adoptive Parents, Adaptive Parents: Evaluating the Importance of Biological Ties for Parental Investment. American Sociological Review. 2007;72(1):95–116.

Contemporary legal and scholarly debates emphasize the importance of biological parents for children’s well-being. Scholarship in this vein often relies on stepparent families even though adoptive families provide an ideal opportunity to explore the role of biology in family life. In this study, we compare two-adoptive-parent families with other families on one key characteristic — parental investment. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten-First Grade Waves (ECLS-K), basic group comparisons reveal an adoptive advantage over all family types. This advantage is due in part to the socioeconomic differences between adoptive and other families. Once we control for these factors, two-adoptive-parent families invest at similar levels as two biological-parent families but still at significantly higher levels in most resources than other types of families. These findings are inconsistent with the expectations of sociological family structure explanations, which highlight barriers to parental investment in nontraditional families, and volutionary science’s kin selection theory, which maintains that parents are genetically predisposed to invest in biological children. Instead, these patterns suggest that adoptive parents enrich their children’s lives to compensate for the lack of biological ties and the extra challenges of adoption.