is a Sociologist of Health & Illness, Disability, and Aging.
He completed his PhD. in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania in 2014.
Benjamin DiCicco-Bloom is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. For the last twelve years he’s been following—and at times living with—a group of autistic adults and their families, and is currently completing a book on the study (under contract with Princeton University Press). Using rich narratives and sociological insights, his manuscript argues that a relational perspective, when compared to the dominant medical and neurodiversity paradigms, better captures the challenges and opportunities facing autistic adults.
Ben also writes about healthcare organizations. In this line of work, he shows how relationships between doctors, nurses, and other professionals shape organizational efficiency, employee wellbeing, and patient care. Ben’s newest area of interest—population aging—is featured in a paper about retirement in China. This article explores how older workers in urban settings navigate China’s mandatory retirement rule, and proposes a dynamic framework for the relationship between people and institutions.
Book Project: Beyond Disease and Difference
Since Leo Kanner’s 1943 article establishing it as a stand-alone diagnosis, autism has risen from near obscurity to become one of the psychiatric labels of our time. While the language of disease and the language of difference dominate popular understandings of autism, both tend to individualize autistic people and obscure the depth and richness of their relationships with others. Seeking to address the limitations of these prevailing frameworks, Beyond Disease and Difference elaborates a relational perspective on autism. It shows how the most profound, personal—and human—aspects of autistic lives are only thrown into relief when situated among family and community.
Emotional Labor and Information Sharing in Health Care
In collaboration with a colleague in nursing, Ben uses ethnographic data to show why relationships between healthcare professionals matter. One article, published in the journal Sociology of Health & Illness, argues that respectful interactions between doctors and nurses facilitate information sharing and collaborative problem solving, benefiting patient care and organizational efficiency.
Another article, published in the journal Work & Occupations, finds that supervisors who provide opportunities for hospice nurses and allied health professionals to process and strategize the emotional components of their job reinforce their staff’s ability to care for dying patients and their families.
Finally, burnout in the healthcare workforce is a topic of increasing concern. The stress caused by Covid-19 pushed many more to the brink, and has experts warning of a “parallel pandemic.” In our most recent piece, we apply lessons learned from prior research to suggest a novel group process that fosters resilience and wellbeing among healthcare providers.
Dynamic Institutions and Aging Populations
Population aging is a major feature of 21st century life: virtually every country in the world will experience a substantial increase in people 60 years of age and older over the next 30 years. This paper (under review), written in concert with a PhD. student in Sociology, draws on the experiences of older urban workers and retirees in China as they navigate that country’s mandatory retirement policy. Eschewing the prevailing image of institutions as static gatekeepers of the status quo, we argue that institutions harbor dynamic ingredients that individuals draw upon when either pursuing alternatives or conforming to prevailing policies and norms. With both cutting edge research and key works from the neoinstitutional canon, this paper offers an alternative to the popular conception of entrepreneurs as atomistic change makers and forwards an image of institutions that aligns with a world in flux.
Other Research and Writing
Ben’s past research and writing also includes work on game metaphors in theory, published in Sociological Theory; teenage status networks and adolescent gambling, published in Youth & Society; a piece on the complexities sorrounding communication with and service provision for autistic adults, published in the edited volume Autism Spectrum Disorder in Mid and Later Life (Scott Wright, Ed.); and a book review of Douglas Maynard and Jason Turowetz’s Autistic Intelligence: Interaction, Individuality, and the Challenges of Diagnosis, published in Social Forces.
For more on his scholarship, click here.