Advancing groundbreaking discovery through bio-psycho-social gender and sexuality research.

Current Research Projects:

Body Dysphoria Among Pre-Pubescent Children with Gender Dysphoria

Dianne Berg, PhD, is the principal investigator of this study funded by the University of Minnesota's Grant-in-Aid program. Body dysphoria, defined as the extent a child is uncomfortable with their body because it is not aligned with their gender identity, was found to be a discerning factor between those children who continued to experience gender dysphoria in their adolescence (transgender children) from those who did not (Steensma, Biemond, de Boer, & Cohen- Kettenis, 2011). There has been little examination of transgender children’s experiences of body dysphoria. This study lays the foundation for a broader line of research focused on the cultural and developmental processes impacting the existence of body dysphoria in transgender children as well as the potential predictive relationship between body dysphoria and the persistence of gender dysphoria into adolescence and adulthood. The present study focuses on examining the extent to which transgender children experience body dysphoria, whether different types of body dysphoria exist, and the relationship between body dysphoria and the age of the child and sex assigned at birth. 

Treatment of Consequences of Female Genital Cutting

Due to recent immigration patterns, there has been a large increase in girls and women in the U.S. healthcare system who have experienced female genital cutting (FGC; a.k.a. female circumcision). A common outcome of FGC is sexual pain. This research project is investigating factors that may contribute to increased risk of developing chronic sexual pain among circumcised Somali American women living in Minnesota. The overall goal is to gather information that may used by mental health and medical professionals to provide culturally-sensitive and empirically-informed healthcare.

Bean Robinson, PhD and Jennifer Connor, PhD, LMFT, are the principal investigators of this study funded by National Institutes of Health.

BIMOR: Bisexual Individuals in Mixed Orientation Relationships

“Mixed orientation relationships” happen when the sexual orientations of people in a relationship do not match. Because we know very little about how this dynamic can impact both individual and overall relational health, the aim of this project is to gather baseline data on bisexual individuals’ relationship health, sexual functioning, minority stress experiences, and general psychological well-being. Jennifer A. Vencill, PhD is the principal investigator of this study funded by the American Institute of Bisexuality.

Compulsive Sexual Behavior Research

Eli Coleman, PhD, is the lead investigator for these research projects focused on better defining, diagnosing, and treating compulsive sexual behavior. Two of these studies are designed to examine the evidence for validity and reliability for the Compulsive Sexual Behavior Inventory (CSBI).  A third study is exploring the incidence and prevalence of CSB within the latest national survey of sexual behavior in the United States.  Finally, we are currently analyzing the data from a project funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) to study sexual compulsivity (Michael Miner, PhD, Principal Investigator).  The aim of this grant was to gather the empirical data needed to clarify the characteristics of sexual compulsivity and how it leads to increased levels of HIV sexual risk behavior.

Roots of Sexual Abuse

Michael Miner, PhD, is the lead investigator of this CDC-funded study. The study will apply attachment theory to identify the unique and shared risk factors for adolescents perpetrating child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and other non-sexual internalizing problems. It is a multi-method, cross-sectional study of 300 adolescent males who have sexually abused children, sexually assaulted peers or adults, and committed non-contact sexual, or have mental health issues but no history of illegal sexual behavior.

Participants are recruited from agencies in both urban and rural Minnesota. Data is collected through available records, interviews, and a computer-administered questionnaire.

Data collection was completed in late 2010 and the team is analyzing data and preparing a number of manuscripts for publication. The team published an important article in the Journal of Sexual Aggression which describes the roles of anti-social behavior and psychopathy traits in perpetration of child sexual abuse and sexual aggression.

Additional researchers on the grant include Dianne Berg, PhD, Bean Robinson, PhD, Morgan Paldron, MA, Angie Lewis-Dmello, and Rebecca Swinburne Romine, MA

Sex Offender Treatment Intervention and Progress Scale (SOTIPS) Implementation Evaluation Project

Michael Miner, PhD, is the principal investigator of this study funded by the National Institutes of Justice of the Department of Justice. The aim of the project is to conduct a rigorous analysis of the utility of a newly developed, dynamic risk factor assessment for sexual offenders, Sex Offender Treatment Intervention and Progress Scale (SOTIPS).

For over a decade, risk detection for sexual offenders has been the domain of static actuarial instruments. By adding dynamic factors to a risk assessment, specifically ones that have been linked to risk of reoffending and are amenable to treatment, has the potential to greatly improve our ability to assess risk, and changes in risk, over time. At the same time, it can improve treatment by systematically tracking progress, and identifying areas for intervention. This project provides a major step forward in sex offender management, in that we are exploring an empirically valid method for tracking changes in risk status. This will allow for a more nuanced strategy toward sex offender management, since intervention intensity could be modified as predicted offender risk changes over time.

Researchers at the PHS worked with the adult probation departments in New York City, NY, and Maricopa County, AZ, to collect data on 735 adult males who had committed sexual offenses and were on probation supervision at each location, interview directors of treatment programs, and conduct focus groups with treatment providers and probation/parole agents. Follow-up data assessed sexual recidivism, non-sexual violent recidivism, any recidivism, returns to confinement, and violations of conditional release (parole or probation).

Additional researchers on the grant include Bean Robinson, PhD, (co-investigator), Chris Hoefer (project coordinator), Cathy Strobel-Ayres, Karl Hanson, PhD, (consultant Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), and David Thornton, PhD (consultant Mauston, Wisconsin).