Associate Professor of Psychology & Women's and Gender Studies
Additional Research Interests: Qualitative Methods
As a feminist psychologist, my research focuses on the reproduction of stigma and inequality, often within psychological research itself. I study how social environments shape what people come to think of as fair, equal, expected, and inevitable for themselves and others -- and how these aspects are often missed in research using traditional research methods.
I have developed three theoretical interventions to guide this work: intimate justice (McClelland, 2010), critical sexuality studies (Fahs & McClelland, 2016), and thick desire (Fine & McClelland, 2006). These each guide researchers to consider how social and political environments unevenly shape people's sexual lives.
A major focus of my research has been the development of “critical methods,” which are methods that look beyond traditional evaluation procedures to assess subtle information about the role of imagination, history, and political rights in psychological data. For examples, see my work on the self-anchored ladder, survey marginalia, item bank analysis, vulnerable listening, and research using Q methods.
My current project focuses on how people in the U.S. think about abortion, particularly at the intersection of race and gender. I focus on the role of everyday attitudes, beliefs, and emotions that continually shape the environment around those who seek abortion care. In particular, I study the associations and stereotypes about women of color in the U.S. that affect how abortion is imagined and policed. Recent articles from this project can be seen here. You can also read more about this project here.
This project builds on my previous research, including analysis of sex education policies, sexual norms and expectations of women diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, and the normalization of mistreatment of those who identify as LGBTQ. For a more detailed overview of my work related to sex ed and critical sexuality studies, see this encyclopedia entry [“Sara McClelland”] written by ProgressLab members Leanna Papp & Harley Dutcher. More information about my research can be found at: ProgressLab.info.
I received my PhD in Psychology (2009), was a postdoctoral scholar in the Michigan Society of Fellows (2009-2012), and received the Class of 1923 Memorial Teaching Award, the Distinguished Early Career Contributions in Qualitative Inquiry Award (APA Div 5), the Mary Walsh Roth Teaching the Psychology of Women Award (APA Div 35) and the Michele Alexander Early Career Award for Scholarship and Service (APA Div 9).
Papp, L. J., & McClelland, S. I. (2021). Too common to count? “Mild” sexual assault and aggression among U.S. college women. Journal of Sex Research, 58(4), 488-501.
McClelland, S. I., Dutcher, H., & Crawford, B. (2020). In the fabric of research: Racial and gender stereotypes in survey items assessing attitudes about abortion. Journal of Social Issues, 76(2), 239-269.
McClelland, S. I. (2018). Critical methods for studying adolescent sexuality. In Lamb, S. & J. Gilbert (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Sexuality: Childhood and Adolescence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 281-299.
McClelland, S. I. (2017). Conceptual disruption: The self-anchored ladder in critical feminist research. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 41(4), 451-464.
McClelland, S. I. (2010). Intimate justice: A critical analysis of sexual satisfaction. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4(9), 663-680.
- Personality & Social Contexts
- Joint Program in Women's and Gender Studies and Psychology
Field(s) of Study
- feminist research methods
- critical psychology
- social justice