• About ME

    I am a PhD student in the Sociology degree program at the University of California, Davis.

    I hold a Master's Degree in Sociology from the University of California, Davis and a B.A. in Pre-Law Political Science with a minor in Psychology, Cum Laude, from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.


    My research interests include: family, law, social transformations & processes of change, and mixed methods. In my current research, I use qualitative methods to examine the forms and contents of alternative family structures in the United States.

  • Education

    University of California, Davis

    2020 (Expected)

    PhD Sociology

    University of California, Davis


    M.A. Sociology

    California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo


    B.A. in Political Science (Pre-Law)

    Minor in Psychology

  • "Ideally, we lose ourselves in what we read, only to return to ourselves, transformed and part of a more expansive world — in short, we become more critical and more capacious in our thinking and our acting."

    Judith Butler

  • Current Research Projects

    Unintentional Hierarchies: Polyamorists and the Families They Choose

    Scholars of marriage and family recognize the changing social importance of family relationships in contemporary American society. Due to the acceleration of these changes in the second half of the 20th century, the meanings and boundaries of “family” are being called into question now more than ever. Much of the discussion derives from a monogamous perspective, that is, either a man and a woman, or a gay or lesbian couple. This framework does not include another family form gaining popularity, which is that of the polyamorous family. How do polyamorists—who may be involved in two or more simultaneous, romantic relationships—approach family-building? Drawing on in-depth interviews with 30 polyamory practitioners, I find that their family-building behaviors do not look radically different from traditional, monogamous families. They often create family units similar to the nuclear family by delineating the degree of commitment to each of their partners. To do this, polyamorists implement hierarchies by choosing one individual to be their “primary” or “nesting” partner and retaining others as “secondary” or “tertiary” partnerships. These hierarchies can be deliberate or applied unintentionally through decisions about social and/or legal responsibilities—an approach I call a “hierarchy of obligation.” However, intriguingly, this behavior differs from the polyamorist ideology of egalitarianism, a model they aspire for across all of their relationships. Applying a feminist theoretical perspective to these findings, I suggest that the likely reason for this inconsistency is the persistence of traditional ideologies within U.S. socio-legal structures.

  • Publications & Presentations


    McCarty, Kristin. 2016. The Need For A Sociological Perspective On Polyamory. In R. Den Otter (Ed.), Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: Perspectives on Marital Possibilities. Lexington Books: 147-166.


    McCarty, Kristin. 2014. Building a Better Soldier: Human Enhancement Technologies in the 21st Century. Paideia 1: 3-24.


    McCarty, Kristin. 2017. "Welcome to the Family: Polyamory and Kinship in the U.S." Paper presented at the Pacific Sociological Association's annual conference, Portland, OR, April.


    McCarty, Kristin, Kelsey Carney, and Julie Spencer-Rodgers. 2013. “Americans’ Stereotype Beliefs about ‘Hispanics’ (People from Spanish-Speaking Nations).” Invited talk given at the Biennial Conference of the International Academy for Intercultural Research, Reno, NV, June.


    Crook, Serina, Kristin McCarty, and Julie Spencer-Rodgers. 2013. “Antecedents of Negative Intercultural Communication Emotions.” Poster presented at the regional conference for the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology, Los Angeles, CA, June.

  • Teaching Experience

    Teaching Assistant

    Sociology of Popular Culture (Lower Division; Fall 2014)


    Introduction to Sociology (Lower Division; Winter 2015)


    Introduction to Social Research (Lower Division; Fall 2016)


    Sociology of Family (Upper Division; Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016)


    Sociology of Law (Upper Division; Spring 2016)


    Introduction to Social Research (Lower Division; Fall 2016)


    Introduction to Social Research (Lower Division; Summer 2015)


    Sociology of Family (Upper Division; Winter 2016)


    Self and Society (Lower Division; Summer 2016)


    Race Relations (Upper Division; Summer 2016)


    Sociology of Gender (Upper Division; Summer 2016)

  • Jury and trial consulting

    JH Rothschild Consulting

    Research Assistant

    May 2016 - Present



  • curriculum vitae

    Download my CV


    To view my UC Davis webpage, please follow this link: http://sociology.ucdavis.edu/people/kmccarty

  • Contact ME

    Please feel free to contact me.

    Sociology Department
    1 Shields Avenue
    Davis, CA 95616