Shannon Cavanagh, Ph.D.

CHASP Faculty Fellow Shannon Cavanagh

College of Liberal Arts-Sociology

Shannon Cavanagh, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After that, she completed a three-year NICHD-funded Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas at Austin.

Cavanagh’s research program consists of two general themes. The first focuses on the implications of family instability for children across the early life course. Her work documents children’s movement into and out of different family structure statuses and examines whether this instability, the characteristics of parents’ that select children into these unstable families, or a combination of both is most important to the health and well-being of children and adolescents. Most of her work to date has focused on the US context, Cavanagh is currently exploring the prevalence and implications of family instability in the UK and South Africa.

The second area focuses on the role of pubertal timing in the lives of young women. Puberty is one of the few universals in early development, producing change throughout the body. Given the social value attached to the female body, the significance of this event often extends beyond the physiological and biological to include many other, non-physical changes in life. What interests Cavanagh most here are the ways that notions of gender, the body, and social context come together to shape how girls negotiate adolescence and the transition into adulthood.


  • Cavanagh, Shannon and Paula Fomby.  Forthcoming.  School Context, Family Instability, and the Academic Careers of Adolescents: The Role of Family Instability within Schools. Sociology of Education.
  • Cavanagh,Shannon and Aletha Huston. 2008. The Timing of Family Instability and Children’s Social Development. Journal of Marriage and Family. 70: 1258-1269.
  • Cavanagh's research on family instability has been supported by grants from NICHD and the National Center for Family and Marriage Research.
  • Cavanagh, Shannon. 2011. Early Pubertal Timing and Union Formation Behaviors of Young Women. Social Forces. 89:1217-1238.
  • Cavanagh, Shannon, Catherine Riegle-Crumb, and Robert Crosnoe. 2007. Early Pubertal Timing and the Education of Girls. Social Psychology Quarterly 70: 186-198.

In the News:

Contact Information
Fax number:

2315 Red River Street
Austin, Texas 78712

Mailing address:

P.O. Box Y
Austin, Texas 78713-8925