Using student-faculty research to help erase stereotypes against singles

October 12, 2010

Coming off a yearlong student-faculty research project, senior Brittany Kemp is already well into the work on her third research endeavor at McDaniel College.

This time, she wants to determine whether stereotypes often demonstrated against singles apply similarly to homosexuals as it does to heterosexuals. And she has raised the stakes by collaborating with a graduate student researcher in Israel.

“It’s going to be an interesting cross-cultural look at this issue, especially since homosexuals can’t legally marry here in the U.S. or in Israel,” says Kemp, who is a double major in Social Work and Psychology. “A lot of this stigmatization against singles has to do with cultural norms in our society. Growing up, you’re told that your Prince Charming is supposed to take you away and you two live happily ever after. Because people are violating those social norms, it generates these stereotypes.”

Kemp says that before she came to McDaniel, she hadn’t imagined she’d be interested in conducting research. But during Kemp’s sophomore year, Wendy Morris, assistant professor of Psychology, piqued her interest in learning more about the stigmatization of singles and she has since completed two research projects and launched a third one.

“It’s about helping people understand and raise awareness to help offset the stereotypes,” Kemp says of her motivation to join Morris in her research. “If you care about racism or sexism, you should care about singlism, too. It’s not yet something people even view as a legitimate form of discrimination. But research is showing that singles are viewed more negatively than married people, and that affects them in their everyday lives. For example, landlords are more willing to rent to married couples than singles.”

Kemp, who plans to pursue a career in counseling, says the opportunity to do research while at McDaniel has helped improve her writing and research skills, as well as helped raise her own awareness about societal concerns. She credits college research grants with helping her complete some of her research. She’s also excited about the prospect of having her research presented at a professional conference in January.

“This experience has made me a more well-rounded person,” Kemp says. “I feel more open-minded, more creative. This process helps you learn thing about yourself, too.”