Anna Mueller

Anna S. Mueller is a Sociologist and Assistant Professor within the department. She is also a Research Associate at the Population Research Center.  She received her BA from Wellesley College in 2002 and her PhD in sociology in 2011 from the University of Texas at Austin with a traineeship from the Population Research Center at UT.

Broadly speaking, Mueller’s research examines how social relationships and social contexts shape adolescent health and wellbeing over the transition to adulthood. She is also interested in how schools, as social organizations, shape social relationships and opportunities to learn, thereby affecting the life chances of children. Her conceptual research interests are matched by her methodological interests in social network analysis, multi-level modeling, and in-depth case studies of adolescent societies. Currently, she has three on-going and interrelated research projects on suicide in adolescence and young adulthood with her colleague Seth Abrutyn at University of Memphis. These projects examine how exposure to the suicide deaths of significant others (e.g., friends, family or schoolmates) shape adolescent mental health and vulnerability to suicide by drawing on insights from social psychology, cultural sociology, sociology of emotions and social network theories. 

The first project uses nationally representative survey data, multi-level modeling and social network analysis to improve our understanding of how and when the diffusion of suicide through social ties occurs. This work has emphasizes how (1) gender, (2) life course stage, (3) the relationship to the person who attempted or died by suicide, and (4) communication about suicide between friends shape suicide diffusion.

The second project involves an in-depth case study of a small, highly-integrated, majority white, wealthy, suburban U.S. community with a high number of youth suicide deaths (including a history of repeat or “echo” suicide clusters). Drawing from in-depth interviews, focus groups, and participant observation, this project identifies the structural and cultural forces within this community that render adolescents more vulnerable to suicide and shows how pressure to live up to high expectations can have unintended consequences for youth, such as generating an intense fear of failure, suppressing help-seeking, and reifying mental health stigma.

Her final project leverages empirical insights from the first two projects to develop a more elaborate sociological theory of suicide. From this work, she has published several theoretical essays that develop the idea that the structure and cultural content of communities condition their role in preventing or promoting suicide. This work begins with Durkheim’s important insights on social integration/regulation and elaborates them using insights from the empirical projects and with ideas from social psychology, cultural sociology, sociology of emotions and social network theories. 

Mueller’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and her articles on suicide have received the Eliot Friedson Outstanding Publication Award from the Section on Medical Sociology of the American Sociological Association as well as best publication awards from the ASA Sections on Sociology of Mental Health, Children & Youth, and Emotions. Her research can be read in the American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Sociological Theory, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and American Journal of Public Health, among others. She teaches courses on sociology of health, mental health, education, children/youth, gender, social networks, and social statistics.

For more information on Mueller’s research visit her website: www.annasmueller.com

Selected Publications

Mueller, Anna S. In Press. “The Role of Schools in Adolescents’ Weight-Loss Behaviors and Self-Perceptions of Overweight.” Sociological Inquiry.

Mueller, Anna S., Seth Abrutyn, and Cynthia Stockton. 2015. “Can Social Ties be Harmful? Examining the Social Dynamics of Suicide Suggestion in Early Adulthood.” Sociological Perspectives. 58(2):204-222. DOI: 10.1177/0731121414556544

Mueller, Anna S., Wesley James, Seth Abrutyn, and Martin Levin. 2015. “Suicide Ideation and Bullying among U.S. Adolescents: Examining the Intersections of Sexual Orientation, Gender & Race/Ethnicity” American Journal of Public Health 105: 980-985. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302391.

Mueller, Anna S. & Seth Abrutyn. 2015. “Suicidal Disclosures among Friends: Using Social Network Data to Understand Suicide Contagion.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 56(1): 131-148.

Abrutyn, Seth, and Anna S. Mueller. 2014. “The Socioemotional Structure of Suicide: A Microsociological View of Durkheim’s Suicide.” Sociological Theory 32(4): 327-351.

Abrutyn, Seth and Anna S. Mueller. 2014. “Reconsidering Durkheim’s Assessment of Tarde: Formalizing a Tardian Theory of Imitation, Contagion, and Suicide Suggestion.” Sociological Forum 29(3): 698-719.

Abrutyn, Seth and Anna S. Mueller. 2014. “Are Suicidal Behaviors Contagious in Adolescence?: Using Longitudinal Data to Examine Suicide Suggestion” American Sociological Review 79(2): 211-227.  

Robinson, Keith, and Anna S. Mueller. 2014. “The Early Link between Cumulative Disadvantage in Mathematics and Behavioral Engagement in Learning: Findings from Kindergarten.” American Journal of Education 120(3): 325-349.

Frank, Kenneth, Chandra Muller, and Anna S. Mueller. 2013. “The Embeddedness of Adolescent Friendship Nominations: The Formation of Social Capital in Emergent Network Structures” American Journal of Sociology 119(1): 216-253.

Mueller, Anna S., Jennifer Pearson, Chandra Muller, Kenneth Frank and Alyn Turner. 2010. “Sizing Up Peers: Adolescent Girls’ Weight Control and Social Comparison in the School Context.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 51(1): 64-78.

Crosnoe, Robert, Kenneth Frank, and Anna Strassmann Mueller. 2008. “Gender, Body Size, and Social Relations in American High Schools.” Social Forces 86(3): 1189-1216.

Frank, Kenneth A., Chandra Muller, Kathryn S. Schiller, Catherine Riegle-Crumb, Anna Strassmann Mueller, Robert Crosnoe, and Jennifer Pearson. 2008. “The Social Dynamics of Mathematics Coursetaking in High Schools.” American Journal of Sociology 113 (6): 1645-1696.

To request a copy of any of Mueller’s articles, please send her an email