Bernice A. Pescosolido

Indiana University

Primary Section: 53, Social and Political Sciences
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2021)


Bernice A. Pescosolido is a sociologist recognized for her work at the interface of community and medical treatment systems. She is particularly known for developing social network and translational frameworks to social epidemiology and health service research.  Research targets four major topics – suicide, the stigma of mental illness, health care systems, and network pathways to and through the medical care system.  Pescosolido was born in Providence, Rhode Island and grew up in East Greenwich. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, with a degree in sociology and from Yale University in 1982 with a Ph.D. in sociology. She has been a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Scholar, held several career awards from the National Institutes of Health, and served as Vice President of the American Sociological Association.  She joined the faculty at Indiana University in 1981 where she founded or co-founded the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Service Research, the Indiana Network Science Institute, and the Sociomedical Sciences Research Institute.  She is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

Research Interests

Bernice Pescosolido’s research is interested in how social factors shape lives, health problems, the search for solutions, and recovery.  She has updated classical sociological theories of suicide through a social network perspective, finding how the contemporary religious landscape in the US influences suicide, how having socially similar individuals can either restrain or push individuals to suicide, and how medicolegal legal officials’ positions affect the suicide rate.  Developing the Network Episode Model, she targeted how individuals’ use of services do not represent a single decision but a complex, social network driven, dynamic combination of choices, coercive forces and “muddling through.”  Leading various multi-university teams, she has established the US National Stigma Studies to fill a nearly 40-year gap in marking levels of prejudice toward mental illness in the US and led the Stigma iIn Global Context – Mental Health Study across 16 nations.  The team has documented changing levels of public understanding of mental illness, very different responses across disorders and to child versus adult problems, and, most recently, the first evidence of “moving the needle” in public stigma toward greater tolerance.

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