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Spencer B. Olmstead

Interim Department Head, Professor, Co-Director of the Well-Being in Adolescents and Emerging Adults Laboratory (WAE)


Dr. Olmstead’s research program focuses broadly on the sexual health and wellbeing of young adults. Specifically, it addresses young adult men’s sexual and reproductive health. The majority of his work draws upon two theoretical orientations: life course development and symbolic interaction. His attention has recently turned to understanding how early sexual health education may promote safer sex practices among individuals making the transition to college. He employs a variety of methods and analyses, and prefers a mixed-methods approach to studying young adults sexual and reproductive health and risk behaviors.

(Currently accepting new graduate students)


  • Young adults’ sexual and reproductive health behaviors
  • The intersection of sexual decision making during the transitions to emerging adulthood and the college environment
  • Father involvement
  • Sexual health and romantic relationship education and intervention for young adults


  • Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
  • M.Ed. in Counseling, Family, and Human Services (specialized in Marriage and Family Therapy) from the University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, 2006
  • B.S.  in Sociology and Psychology (Dual Major) from Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, 2004

Curriculum Vitae

Awards and Recognitions

  • 2018 - Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year (2017-2018); College of Education, Health & Human Sciences (awarded from the University of Tennessee Office of Undergraduate Research)

  • 2014 - University of Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center, 2014 Creative Teaching Grant, Re-designing CFS 240: Human Sexuality ($3,500, funded). PI: S.B. Olmstead.
  • 2014 - SARIF-GRA award to support a graduate assistant to analyze data from the Promoting the Sexual Health and Wellbeing of First Year Students project, University of Tennessee Office of Research ($3,600, funded). PI: S.B. Olmstead.          
  • 2013 - University of Tennessee, Professional Development Award research project: Promoting the Sexual Health and Wellbeing of First Year Students ($2,780, funded). PI: S.B. Olmstead.


Selected Recent Publications

Olmstead, S. B., Norona, J. C., & Anders, K. M. (in press). How do college experience and gender differentiate the enactment of hookup scripts among emerging adults? Archives of Sexual Behavior. Advanced online publication. doi:10.1007/s10508-018-1233-4

Anders, K. M., & Olmstead, S. B. (2018). A qualitative examination of sexual possible selves and strategies of first-semester college students: How sexual possible selves are developed during the transition to college. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Advanced online publication. doi:10.1007/s10508-018-1332-2

Sizemore, K. M., & Olmstead, S. B. (2018). Willingness of emerging adults to engage in consensual non-monogamy: A mixed-methods analysis. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47, 1423-1438. doi:10.1007/s10508-017-1075-5

Olmstead, S. B., Conrad, K. A., & Anders, K. M. (2018). First semester college students’ definitions of and expectations for engaging in hookups. Journal of Adolescent Research, 33, 275-305. doi:10.1177/0743558417698571

Olmstead, S. B., *Anders, K. M., & *Conrad, K. A. (2017). Meanings for sex and commitment among first semester college men and women: A mixed-methods study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46, 1831-1842. doi:10.1007/s10508-016-0777-4

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