Kelly M. Thames, Ph.D.

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. I earned my Ph.D. in Sociology from North Carolina State University.  I also hold an M.S. in Sociology and a B.A. in Criminology from North Carolina State University. Guided by my passion for criminological theory construction and theory testing and my commitment to issues of social justice, my current research primarily explores the effects of global neoliberalization on cross-national rates of violent crime.  More specifically, I am interested in investigating the relationship between neoliberal shifts in social welfare policy and rates of criminal behavior in a variety of political contexts, including western democratic and post-communist countries.  I am also interested in the relationship between crime and public perceptions of social justice in the wake of welfare retrenchment.  As a quantitative researcher with a passion for theory, my exploration of these issues have incorporated multilevel and longitudinal tests of theories whose concepts are hypothesized to buffer the harmful effects of economic deprivation on criminal offending.  This line of research has led to the development of an original theory of crime, conditioned social support theory, which integrates theories of social justice into an elaboration of social support theories. 

In addition to my cross-national crime and theoretical work, I am also actively involved in a line of research utilizing big data analytics methodologies to predict and better understand national and international drug use trends. More specifically, these projects have incorporated data made available through Google and social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter in an effort to predict local and national rates of drug use and to analyze the interplay between public policy, media framing, and public understandings of the opioid crisis in local and regional areas of the United States.

More broadly, my scholarly interests include: Cross-National Crime; Criminological Theory; Social Control; Theory Construction; Mass Violence; Global Neoliberalization; Inequality (Race, Class, and Gender); Quantitative Research Methods (Big Data Analytics, Decomposition/”Hybrid” Panel Analysis, Hierarchical Linear Modeling) 

 Courses Taught

  • Criminology
  • Social Deviance
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Corrections
  • Communities and Crime
  • Punishment and Social Control
  • Propaganda, Media, and Society
  • The Sociological Perspective
  • Sociology of Law
  • Crime, Law and Deviance in the European Union

Research Interests

  • Criminological Theory
  • Cross-National Crime
  • Mass Violence
  • Social Control 
  • Theory Construction
  • Inequality (Race, Class, and Gender)
  • Sociological Theory
  • Quantitative Research Methods (Big Data Analysis, Decomposition/”Hybrid” Panel Analysis, Hierarchical Linear Modeling)

Recent Publications

Russell, David, Kelly M. Thames, Naomi J. Spence, and Callie Koeval. 2020. “Where the Fault Lies: Representations of Addiction in Audience Reactions to Media Coverage of the Opioid Epidemic.” Contemporary Drug Problems. 47:83-102. DOI: 10.1177/0091450920929102

Russell, David, Naomi J. Spence, and Kelly M. Thames. 2019. “’It's So Scary How Common This is Now:’ Frames in Media Coverage of the Opioid Epidemic by Ohio Newspapers and Themes in Facebook User Reactions.” Information, Communication,
and Society. DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2019.1566393.

Perdue, Robert Todd, James Hawdon, and Kelly M. Thames. 2018. “Can Big Data Predict the Rise of Novel Drug Abuse?” The Journal of Drug Issues. DOI: 10.1177/0022042618772294.

Thames, Kelly M. and Patricia L. McCall. 2014. “A Longitudinal Examination of the Effects of Social Support on Homicide Across European Regions.” International Journal of Conflict and Violence 8:234-261.

Ray, Bradley, Cindy B. Dollar, and Kelly M. Thames. 2011. “Observations of Reintegrative Shaming in a Mental Health Court.International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 34:49-55.  

Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Department of Sociology

Email address: Email me

Phone: (828) 262-6387

Office address
202B Chapell Wilson Hall


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