UC Santa Cruz sponsored gender development conference celebrates 10 years

A national conference on gender development that UC Santa Cruz psychology professor Campbell Leaper founded 10 years ago with Carol Martin of Arizona State University will begin Thursday in San Francisco.

The two-day conference attracts a multidisciplinary group of leading researchers in psychology and other fields, including medicine, neuroscience, sociology, and anthropology.

The Gender Development Research Conference, co-hosted by UC Santa Cruz, is held every two years and addresses various aspects of children's and adolescents' gender development including both biological and cultural approaches. Some of the topics addressed include gender development and hormones, gender stereotyping in children, sexualization of girls and girlhood, single-sex versus coeducational schooling, norms of masculinity among boys and girls, and victimization of LGBTI youth.

Two researchers who received their Ph.D.s in development psychology from UC Santa Cruz will give presentations. Elizabeth Daniels, now at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, will take part in a panel on the sexualization of girls and girlhood. She'll be joined by UCSC psychology professor Eileen Zurbriggen, who has published widely on the subject.

Rachael Robnett, now at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, will be on a panel providing insights on gender development research from new investigators. Both Daniels and Robnett were graduate students at UCSC with Leaper, an internationally known expert on gender development.

Zurbriggen said it's unusual for a conference like this to be organized solely by a pair of interested faculty. Typically conferences are organized by professional societies, that have staff for event planning. "I think this exemplifies some of what is special about UCSC," Zurbriggen said.

"Not only do our faculty do world-class research themselves but are also dedicated to teaching and service–in this case, providing outstanding mentoring and networking opportunities for graduate students, and serving the field by providing a space for intense intellectual discussions among an interdisciplinary group of researchers.  And they do it year after year."

It's also a place for graduate students to interact with senior scholars, and provides networking opportunities at lunches and other events, she said. Several UC Santa Cruz psychology graduate students are presenting posters at the conference.