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F. Gilgun, Ph.D., LICSW Professor, School of Social Work Statement for the Excellence in Research College of Education and Human Development February 2013 The Sweet Burn of Youth The sweet burn of youth usually fades to a mellow glow as life events burnish and reshape ideals and dreams. This has not happened in my case. Now in late career, I continue to burn with a desire to understand what violence means to perpetrators, the development of violent behaviors, and how persons overcome adversities. In short, I want to know why some people do terrible things to others and why other people promote the well-being of self and others. This desire probably began with early experiences of fairness and love, coupled with discussions of the principles behind fairness and love. I had a multitude of happy experiences and role models in my family and in the small New England town in which I grew up. Maybe the belief in fairness and love is innate and then nurtured by personal experiences. I had the good fortune to grow up in a family and town with people who lived these ideals. There were some difficult times in those years. Each time my family had the resources to cope. For instance, when my father lost his job, our extended families stepped in. When my beloved great aunt died, my family allowed me to grieve in my own way and in my own time. Thus I was shocked to my bones when in my mid-twenties I met a 14 year-old African American girl who had a six month-old baby boy. I had never heard of such young people having babies. Elvera was a patient at one of six family planning clinics that I had established in the inner city of Providence, Rhode Island, through Office of Economic Opportunity funding. Elvera was big, broad shouldered, and hunched over. She had hooded eyes that exuded mistrust. She spoke softly and seemed to have mental retardation, although I was unsure. Eighteen months later, I was a caseworker at Rhode Island Child Welfare Services. Elvera was one of my first clients. I read in her case history that she had been sexually abused multiple times starting in infancy by men who visited her family to buy drugs and to party. Parental rights were terminated when she was five years old. She had had 14 foster placements by the time I met her. No one wanted to adopt her. Knowing Elvera has shaped my career. I went back to school for my PhD in order to do research that would help children and families like Elvera. I wanted to contribute to the education of social service providers and to influence polices and programs that would promote family and child well-being and contribute to prevention. Thirty-five years ago, we knew practically nothing about children in care. I had studied Bowlby and other early developmentalists while a student in family studies and sexuality at the Catholic University of Louvain (Leuven) in Belgium in the mid 1960s. I was ahead of most of my social work

colleagues in terms of knowledge. This training helped me understand much about the children and families in my caseload, but I knew there was much more to understand that we did not, that I did not. Syracuse University was a great place for me because the program was relatively flexible. The required courses were relevant to my interests, and opportunities to learn about children and families and about research methods were abundant. I was a statistics tutor for two years, studied with Donald T. Campbell, and attended lectures of Robert Bogdan, a qualitative researcher in the tradition of the Chicago School of Sociology, which became my tradition. When I attended a PhD students proposal presentation where she planned to interview 20 couples, it was like a door opened and the sun streamed in. You mean you can do research by talking to people? I was hooked on qualitative research from that time forward. It was wonderful to study with Campbell because his brilliance entranced me and showed me the logic behind qualitative studies. I had been primarily a qualitative researcher since then. I am also a methodologist, having written a great deal about qualitative methods based on Chicago School traditions. I have turned down many requests to write books on qualitative research because I want to spend my time doing research. From the beginning of my career, I have had invitations to write articles about qualitative research. I accept those invitations. I wish I could say that funders pursued me as ardently as book publishers and book editors, but they have not. I have had funding from foundations, such at the Saint Paul Foundation, the Allina Foundation, the Silberman Foundation, the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, and the Minnesota Agricultural Station. Proposals I have written or co-written have been funded through the McKnight Foundation and the Ms. Foundation. Federal program officers were uninterested in my qualitative research with perpetrators of interpersonal violence. The program officer at the national center on rape told me, Do not submit a proposal. I had talked to him about in-depth case studies of male rapists using feminist perspectives. Another program officer asked the principal investigator of a multi- million dollar project on the development of criminal behaviors to take me on as a co- investigator. He said no. He did not want a qualitative component to the research. Elveras face and her story and the faces and stories of many other children and families have been my beacon and have driven me all of these years. Every research project I have undertaken was a response to these children and families. I now know a great deal about my topics of interest and research methodologies from doing in-depth interviews and observations for many years. I have written many articles for scholarly journals, books, and the general public. For instance, I have 682,000 reads on, a social media website. I hope to influence public opinion that could influence the development and implementation of more humane policies and programs than we now have. Some of my journal articles are among the most cited and downloaded. I have much more to write up, and I continue to learn. From the stories of peoples lives come deep understandings.