Jennifer M. Randles
Areas of Expertise & Civic Involvements
Randles is an ethnographer who studies low-income parenthood, gender inequality, marriage, and welfare policies that target family-formation trends. Her research on marriage education was the first ethnographic study of the implementation of healthy marriage policy for low-income families. Her current research is an ethnographic investigation of a responsible fatherhood program for low-income men of color. Her future research will explore the national diaper bank movement, low-income parents’ experiences with diaper need, and why state and federal efforts to create a diaper policy have failed. In each of these research projects, Randles analyzes how family policies and social programming shape poor parents’ abilities to meet their partnering and parenting goals in the context of social and economic constraints. She is a community partner with the Fresno County Economic Opportunity Commission and the Fresno First Five Early Childhood Initiative and a member of the Council on Contemporary Families.
Shows how U.S. government-supported marriage education programs’ focus on interpersonal relationship skills reinforces the invisibility of latent and hidden forms of marital power and gender inequality.
Traces the goals and strategies of the U.S. marriage education movement and discusses how the focus on individual-level interventions has undermined the marriage promotion and poverty-prevention goals of marriage policy.
Analyzes how low-income parents benefited most from relationship skills programs when class lessons normalized their relationship problems as shared challenges of parenting in poverty and minimized parents’ tendency to individualize relational and financial strain.
Theorizes marital masculinity by revealing how healthy marriage policy shapes ideas of successful fatherhood and paternal identity by teaching couples that marriage provides low-income men the greatest social incentive to become invested in a middle-class breadwinner ethic.
Discusses the challenges feminist ethnographers face when respondents’ perspectives clash with feminist theoretical explanations and political commitments.
Explains the logic and strategies of healthy marriage policy and why it fails to address the social and economic inequalities that often undermine individuals’ efforts to create stable intimate relationships, marriages, and families.