Assistant Professor of Sociology
Department of Sociology
University of Memphis
Clement Hall, Room 223
Memphis TN 38152
Phone: (901) 678-2612
Fax: (901) 678-2525
Anna S. Mueller is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology. She received her Ph.D. in
Sociology in 2011 from the University of Texas at Austin.
Broadly speaking, Mueller’s research examines how peers shape adolescent health and
wellbeing over the transition to adulthood, with a focus on suicidality and weight-control
behaviors. Her research emphasizes why and how behaviors and values spread between
individuals generally using insights from social psychology, social network theories,
and sociology of emotions. She is also interested in how schools, as social organizations,
shape social relationships and opportunities to learn, thereby affecting the life
chances of children in terms of education, health, and wellbeing. Her substantive
interests are complemented by her methodological interests in social network analysis
and multi-level modeling.
Currently, she is working on a series of studies on the spread of suicides via social
relationships with her colleague in the sociology department, Dr. Seth Abrutyn. With
this research, she and Dr. Abrutyn are analyzing factors that render youth more susceptible
to suicidality following the suicide attempts of friend or family members. Their research
pays particular attention to gender differences and examines how these factors play
out in different stages of the life course. Mueller’s work is guided by two ultimate
goals. First, she aims to improve suicide prevention by providing as much knowledge
as possible about the conditions under which suicides are most likely to spread. Second,
she aims to develop a more robust sociological theory of suicide – one that integrates
knowledge from Durkheim’s important work on social integration and regulation with
insights from social psychology and existing research on the social contagion of emotions
and behaviors. Mueller and Abrutyn’s first study from this line of research was recently
published in the American Sociological Review (April 2014). A podcast interview with Mueller and Abrutyn is also available online.
In addition to her research on suicide, Mueller has conducted research on the role
of school contexts in adolescents’ body weight also using a social-psychological framework.
This work highlights the important role school cultures play in shaping adolescents’
decisions to practice weight control and demonstrates how social comparison theory
improves our understanding of how health behaviors are linked to social contexts.
Further, her research suggests that adolescents do not uniformly respond to macro-level
body ideals – such as those that equate feminine beauty with being thin - and that
the weight cultures they encounter through everyday life shape their weight control
decisions and self-perceptions.
Mueller’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (Graduate Research
Fellowship). She has published articles in the American Sociological Review, American
Journal of Sociology, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Forces and the
American Journal of Education.
Dr. Mueller teaches Social Statistics, Intermediate Social Statistics, Senior Thesis,
Sociology of Education, and Gender and Health.