Dr. Sinikka Elliott, dear colleague, friend, mentor, and teacher, was found deceased on May 15, 2021, after going missing on Salt Spring Island, BC.
Dr. Elliott had an international reputation as a scholar of family, inequality, and health. Elliott was an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of British Columbia. She came to UBC in 2017 from North Carolina State University, which she joined in 2008 after completing her doctorate in sociology at the University of Texas, Austin.
Throughout her career as a sociologist, Elliott left her mark as an exceptional teacher and mentor. She was devoted to her students, nurturing them into budding scholars with compassion and generosity. As a colleague, Elliott was steadfast in her commitment to a supportive, equitable, and diverse academia. We are heartbroken to lose her.
In her work, Dr. Elliott sought to understand how social inequality is reproduced, resisted, and transformed by examining the specific social contexts in which the families she studied were embedded, and how they responded creatively to the difficult situations they often faced. In 2012, she published her first book, Not My Kid: What Parents Believe About the Sex Lives of Their Teenagers. Elliott sought to understand how American parents addressed their own teenager’s sexuality when teen sexuality is deemed a major social problem. She found that while parents saw teen sexuality as risky, they didn’t believe their own child engaged in such behaviour, drawing upon gender, racial, class, and sexual inequalities to draw a boundary between their own child and the stereotypical “risky” teen. Elliott argued that parents’ beliefs about teen sexuality were shaped by a social discourse that represents parents as morally responsible for teaching children about and protecting them from the negative consequences of sex. Offloading the social problem of teen sexuality from educational or health care systems onto parents made parental attitudes about sex ripe for the reproduction of inequality.
Dr. Elliott’s 2019 book, Pressure Cooker, co-authored with Sarah Bowen and Joslyn Brenton, was based on a major study of childhood obesity and food insecurity among low-income American families. Pressure Cooker explores the stories of nine families to illustrate broader patterns among low-income families, documenting how family food practices are shaped by access to transportation, income insecurity, precarious employment, unpredictable work hours, and lack of access to affordable childcare. Elliott argued that both policy and popular discourses that represent home cooking as the solution to childhood obesity fail to recognize the powerful structural constraints that poor families face in feeding their children. As with her other work, in this book Elliott sought to promote policies that will produce a more just society that cares for families better.
In addition to these major works, Elliott published articles on the parenting experiences and strategies of low-income Black mothers in the United States, how low-income mothers navigate medical and governmental surveillance of their children’s body size, and the importance of orientations towards time in conducting ethnographic fieldwork. In all her work, Elliott adopted a profoundly collaborative approach. She regularly partnered not only with students and with scholars from other disciplines but also with community partners, such as a recent partnership with the New Westminster school district in British Columbia on the development of a school lunch program. Elliott regarded her research participants as research partners. She not only informed them of research findings but actually consulted with participants during the analysis process, allowing them to register their own reactions to her scholarly interpretations of their lives. This sense of responsibility towards the people she studied deeply informed Elliott’s scholarship and her concerns with social inequality.
Asterisk = equal authorship; Underline = student authorship
*Bowen, Sarah, Joslyn Brenton and Sinikka Elliott. 2019. Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won’t Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It. New York: Oxford University Press.
Elliott, Sinikka. 2012. Not My Kid: What Parents Believe about the Sex Lives of Their Teenagers. New York: New York University Press.
Mycek, Mari Kate, Annie Hardison-Moody, J. Dara Bloom, Sarah Bowen, and Sinikka Elliott. 2020. “Learning to Eat the ‘Right’ Way: Examining Nutrition Socialization from the Perspective of Immigrants and Refugees.” Food, Culture, & Society 23(1):46-65.
Elliott, Sinikka and Megan Reid. 2019. Low-income Black Mothers Parenting Adolescents in the Mass Incarceration Era: The Long Reach of Criminalization. American Sociological Review84(2):197-219.
Elliott, Sinikka, Joslyn Brenton, and Rachel Powell. 2018. Brothermothering: Gender, Power, and the Parenting Strategies of Low-Income Black Single Mothers of Teenagers. Social Problems 65(4): 439-455.
*Elliott, Sinikka and Sarah Bowen. 2018. Defending Motherhood: Morality, Responsibility, and Double Binds in Feeding Children. Journal of Marriage and Family 80:499-520. DOI:10.1111/jomf.12465.
Hardison-Moody, Annie, Lillian MacNell, Sinikka Elliott, and Sarah Bowen. 2018, online early view. How Social, Cultural, and Economic Environments Shape Infant Feeding for Low-income Women: A Qualitative Study in North Carolina. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2018.01.008.
Riley, Sarah, Adrienne Evans, Sinikka Elliott, Carla Rice, and Jeanne Marecek. 2017, online early view. A Critical Review of Postfeminist Sensibility. Social & Personality Psychology Compass. DOI:10.1111/spc3.12367.
Elliott, Sinikka, Joslyn Brenton, and Rachel Powell. 2017, online early view. Brothermothering: Gender, Power, and the Parenting Strategies of Low-Income Black Single Mothers of Teenagers. Social Problems. doi.org/10.1093/socpro/spx021.
MacNell, Lillian, Sinikka Elliott, Annie Hardison-Moody, and Sarah Bowen. 2017. Black and Latino Urban Food Desert Residents’ Perceptions of their Food Environment and Factors that Influence Food Shopping Decisions. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition 12(3): 375-393. doi.org/10.1080/19320248.2017.1284025.
Elliott, Sinikka, Josephine Ngo McKelvy, and Sarah Bowen. 2017. Marking Time in Ethnography: Uncovering Temporal Dispositions. Ethnography 18(4): 556-676. doi.org/10.1177/1466138116655360.
- Reprinted in Contemporary Approaches to Ethnographic Research. In print January 2018. Hughes, Kahryn, Jerry Coulton, John Goodwin, and Jason Hughes (Eds.), Sage Publications.
Elliott, Sinikka and Megan Reid. 2016. The Superstrong Black Mother. Contexts 15(1): 48-53.
- Reprinted in Gender, Sexuality, and Intimacy: A Contexts Reader. 2017: 325-329. O’Brien, Jody and Arlene Stein (Eds), Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Reid, Julie, Gretchen Webber, and Sinikka Elliott. 2015. “It’s Like Being in Church and Being on a Field Trip”: The Date Versus Party Situation in College Students’ Accounts of Hooking Up. Symbolic Interaction 38(2): 175-194.
Elliott, Sinikka, Rachel Powell, and Joslyn Brenton. 2015. Being a Good Mom: Low-Income Black Single Mothers Negotiate Intensive Mothering. Journal of Family Issues 36(3): 351-370.
*Bowen, Sarah, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton. 2014. The Joy of Cooking? Contexts 13(3): 20-25.
- Reprinted in Gender, Sexuality, and Intimacy: A Contexts Reader. 2017: 317-320. O’Brien, Jody and Arlene Stein (Eds), Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Elliott, Sinikka. 2014. “Who’s to Blame?” Constructing the Responsible Sexual Agent in Neoliberal Sex Education. Sexuality Research and Social Policy 11(3): 211-224.
Brenton, Joslyn and Sinikka Elliott. 2014. Undoing Gender? The Case of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Sociology of Health & Illness 36(1): 91-107.
Elliott, Sinikka and Elyshia Aseltine. 2013. Raising Teenagers in Hostile Environments: How Race, Class, and Gender Matter for Mothers’ Protective Carework. Journal of Family Issues 34(6): 719-744.
*Reid, Julie, Sinikka Elliott and Gretchen Webber. 2011. Casual Hookups to Formal Dates: Refining the Boundaries of the Sexual Double Standard. Gender & Society 25(5): 545-568.
*Solebello, Nicholas and Sinikka Elliott. 2011. “We Want Them to be as Heterosexual as Possible”: Fathers Talk about Their Teen Children’s Sexuality. Gender & Society 25(3): 293-315.
Elliott, Sinikka. 2010. Talking to Teens about Sex: Mothers Negotiate Resistance, Discomfort, and Ambivalence. Sexuality Research and Social Policy 7(4): 310-322.
Elliott, Sinikka. 2010. Parents’ Constructions of Teen Sexuality: Sex Panics, Contradictory Discourses, and Social Inequality. Symbolic Interaction 33(2): 191-212.
Elliott, Sinikka. 2010. “If I Could Really Say That and Get Away with It!”: Accountability and Ambivalence in American Parents’ Sexuality Lessons in the Age of Abstinence. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning 10(3): 239-250.
Connell, Catherine and Sinikka Elliott. 2009. Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Learning Inequality through Sexuality Education. American Journal of Sexuality Education 4(2): 83-102.
Reczek, Corinne, Sinikka Elliott, and Debra Umberson. 2009. Commitment without Marriage: Union Formation among Long-Term Gay and Lesbian Couples. Journal of Family Issues 30(6): 738-756.
Elliott, Sinikka and Debra Umberson. 2008. The Performance of Desire: Gender and Sexual Negotiation in Long-Term Marriages. Journal of Marriage and Family 70: 391-406.