Lara Descartes

Dr. Lara Descartes

Job Title:

 Professor, Family Studies and Human Development


 Full-Time Faculty



 519.432.8353 x28059


 Mother St. James 301 D

Academic Background

  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, PhD in Anthropology, 2002 
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MA in Anthropology, 1995 
  • University of California, Los Angeles, MS in Astronomy, 1992 
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, BS in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, 1990 

Previous Work Experience

  • Coordinator, Family Studies, Brescia University College, 2016-19 (sabbatical Winter 2017, Winter 2019) 
  • Professor, Family Studies, Brescia University College, 2015-present 
  • Chair, Division of Sociology and Family Studies, Brescia University College, 2011-14 
  • Adjunct Research Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Western Ontario, 2011-14  
  • Associate Professor, Family Studies, Brescia University College, 2008-15  
  • Adjunct Research Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Western Ontario, 2008-11 
  • Assistant Professor in Human Development and Family Studies, University of Connecticut, 2002-08 
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Center for the Ethnography of Everyday Life, University of Michigan  
  • Teacher, Science, Beverly Hills Prep School, 1992-93 

Representative Publications


  • Descartes, L., & Kottak, C. P. (2009). Media and middle class moms: Images and realities of work and family. New York: Routledge. 
  • Rudd, E., & Descartes, L. (Eds.). (2008). The changing landscape of work and family in the American middle class: Reports from the field. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.   

Journal articles 

  • Descartes, L. (2020). An exploratory study of single and coupled lesbian mothers’ experiences with social support. Canadian Journal of Family and Youth, 12, 269-287. 
  • Goldman, J. A., & Descartes, L. (2016). Food depictions in picture books for preschool children: Frequency, centrality, and affect. Appetite, 96, 203-208. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2015.09.018
  • Descartes, L., Asencio, M., & Blank, T. (2011). Paying project participants: Dilemmas in conducting research with poor, marginalized populations. Advances in Social Work, 12(2), 1-9. 
  • England, D., Descartes, L., & Collier-Meek, M. (2011). Gender role portrayal and the Disney princesses. Sex Roles, 64, 555-567. DOI 10.1007/s11199-011-9930-7. 


  • Descartes, L. (2016). Single lesbian mothers. In M. Motapanyane (Ed.), Motherhood and lone/single parenting: A 21st century perspective (pp. 193-204). Bradford, ON: Demeter Press.  
  • Blank, T., Descartes, L., Asencio, M. (2015). Cancer screening in gay and bisexual men and transgender people. In U. Boehmer & R. Elk (Eds.), Cancer and the LGBT community: Unique perspectives from risk to survivorship (pp. 99-116). New York: Springer. 

Representative Conferences 

  • Blank, T., & Descartes, L. (2018, Nov.). Males caring for males: Are they different from other caregiving gender dyads? Gerontological Society of America 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting. Boston, MA. 
  • Goldman, J., & Descartes, L., (2018, June). Messages about desirable foods presented in books for young children: Are we promoting healthy food choices? Administration for Children and Families 2018 National Research Conference on Early Childhood (NRCEC). Washington, D.C. 
  • Goldman, J., & Descartes, L. (2016, Sept.). Cookies or carrots: Food messages presented in media designed for young children. 2016 “Making sense of: Food, exploring the food experience, the food project: 5th global meeting,” Mansfield College, Oxford, UK. 
  • Descartes, L. (2016, March). Single lesbian mothers and support: Implications for service and information providers. Presented at the Rainbow Health Ontario 2016 Conference, London, ON. 
  • Descartes, L. (2015, June). Skype and the ethnographer. Presented at the 32nd Annual Qualitative Analysis Conference, London, ON. 
  • Descartes, L., & Goldman, J. (2014, July). Food and picture books: Relating two aspects of the everyday environments of young children. Presented at the 5th International Conference at the Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth, Sheffield, UK. 

Areas of Teaching 


  • 1010A/B  – Introduction to Families in Canada 
  • 1015A/B – Close Relationships 
  • 1020 – Introduction to Family Studies 
  • 2200E – Current Issues in Family Studies, Essay Course 
  • 2265A/B – Midlife and Elder Years 
  • 2300F/G – Understanding Family Research, Essay Course 
  • 3325A/B – Diversity and the Canadian Family 
  • 4220A/B – Theoretical Perspectives in Family Studies Research  
  • 4403 – Practicum in Family Studies 

Research Specialization(s)

  • Parenting 
  • Sexual minority families 
  • Health 
  • Popular culture/media 
  • Work and family 
  • Social support 

Awards and Recognition

  • Dean’s Honour Roll of Teaching, Brescia University College, 2019, 2015, 2011, 2010 
  • Alternate: Fulbright Scholar Program, 2012 
  • University of Michigan Teaching Fellow, 2001 
  • Mellon/Dean’s Fellowship, 1996 
  • Margaret Wray French Scholarship, 1995 
  • University of California Office of the President Fellowship, 1990