Kersti Alice Yllo

Professor of Sociology, Emerita


Ph.D., M.A., Sociology, University of New Hampshire
B.A., Sociology, Denison University


Main Interests

Sociology of the Family, Gender Inequality, Domestic Violence and Marital Rape, Feminist Research

Other Interests

In addition to my work in Sociology, I am interested in alternative education. I am the co-founder of The Pinecroft School, an independent elementary school for grades K-5 where my two children were students. A number of Wheaton students serve as Pinecroft interns each year.


Marital Rape: Consent, Marriage and Social Change in Global Context. (edited with Gabriela Torres) under contract with Oxford University Press.

“Through a Feminist Lens: Gender, Diversity, and Violence – Extending the Feminist Framework” in Ferguson, Susan (ed.) Shifting the Center: Understanding Contemporary Families (4th edition) 2011.

“Marital Rape” in V. Parillo (ed) Encyclopedia of Social Problems Sage Publication, 2007.

“An Interview with Kersti Yllo” in Ola Barnett et al. (eds.) Family Violence Across the Lifespan (2nd ed.) Sage Publications, 2005.

“Wife Rape: a Social Problem for the 21st Century.” Violence Against Women 5:1059-1063, 1999.

“The Silence Surrounding Sexual Violence: the Challenge Marital Rape Poses for the Duluth Model”, in Pence, E. and M. Shepard (eds) Coordinating Community Response to Domestic Violence: Lessons from Duluth. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1999.

“Collaboration Between Researchers and Advocates” (with E. Gondolf and J. Campbell) in G. Kantor and J. Jasinski (eds.), Out of the Darkness: Contemporary Perspectives on Family Violence. Sage Publication, 1997.

“Marital Rape” in R. Gelles (ed.), Vision 2010: families, Violence, Abuse and Neglect, Vol. 3, #1, 1996.

“Through A Feminist Lens: Gender, Power and Violence- in Gelles, R. and D. Loseke (Eds.), Controversies in Family Violence, Sage Publications, 1994.

“Reflections of a Feminist Family Violence Researcher,” in Sollie, D. and L. Leigh (Eds) (revised and expanded version of “Political and Methodological Debates” chapter) in Feminism and the Study of Family and Close Relationships, Sage Publications, 1994.

“Pregnant Woman Abuse and Adverse Birth Outcomes: Current Knowledge and Implications for Practice” in S. Fuchs, et al. (Eds.) (with E. Newberger, et al.) Pre-Term Birth: Causes, Prevention and Treatment (2nd ed) NY: Pergamon, 1993. (Expanded version of JAMA article).

“Abuse of Pregnant Women and Adverse Birth Outcome,” (with Eli Newberger, et al.) Journal of American Medical Association, 267:2370-2372 (May 6, 1992).

“Re-Visions: How the New Scholarship on Women Transforms the College Curriculum,” American Behavioral Scientist 32:658-667 (July/August 1989).

“Family Secrets: Teaching about Violence Against Women,” Radical Teacher 36:19-22 (December, 1989).

Feminist Perspectives on Wife Abuse (co-edited with M. Bograd) Cal: Sage Publications, 1988.

Stopping Family Violence: An Agenda of Research Priorities for the Coming Decade. (contributing author with D. Finkelhor and G. Hotaling) Cal: Sage Publications, 1988.

Love Stories: Women, Men and Romance (co-producer with R. Broadman, J. Grady and J. Smith). A CineResearch Production (87 minute documentary film on the social history of intimacy), 1988.

License to Rape: Sexual Abuse of Wives. (with D. Finkelhor) New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston Publishers, 1985. (available in paperback from the Free Press).

“Marital Rape: A Review of Recent Research” (with D. Finklehor) in Ann Burgess (ed.) Rape and Sexual Assault: A Research Handbook. NY: Garland Press 1984, pp. 145-158.

“The Status of Women, Marital Equality, and Violence Against Wives: A Contextual Analysis.” Journal of Family Issues 5:307-320 (Sept.,1984).

“The Impact of Structural Inequality and Sexist Family Norms on Rates of Wife-Beating” (with M.A. Straus) Journal of International and Comparative Social Work. 1:16-29 (Fall, 1984).

“Sexual Equality and Violence Against Wives in American States.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 14:67-86. (Spring,1983).

“Using a Quantitative Approach in Feminist Research.” in Finkelhor, Gelles et al. (eds) The Dark Side of Families: Current Issues in Family Violence Research. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1983, pp. 277-288.

“Rape in Marriage: Three Types,” with (D. Finkelhor) in Finkelhor, Gelles, et al. (eds) The Dark Side of Families. Sage, 1983, pp. 119-131. Reprinted in Alan Lincoln (ed) Crime and the Family and Martha Straus (ed) Abuse and Victimization Across the Lifespan.

“Forced Sex in Marriage: A Preliminary Research Report.” (with D. Finkelhor) Crime and Delinquency 28:459-478 (July, 1982).

“Interpersonal Violence among Married and Cohabiting Couples,” Family Relations, 30:339-347, (July, 1981) with M.A. Straus. (Reprinted in 1983 Family Studies Review Yearbook, Sage Pub).

“Non-marital Cohabitation: Beyond the College Campus.” Alternative Lifestyles 1:37-54 (February, 1978).

Teaching Interests

I teach courses on Families in Transition , Gender Inequality, and  Violence against Women as well as the gateway course for the major, Self and Society. In addition, Research Methods and Sociology Senior Research Seminar are the courses that advance student research in the department.

Student Projects

Sociology majors conduct independent research culminating in a senior thesis. Recent topics have included children and cyberporn, Bollywood and Indian identity in the diaspora,  Cape Verdian identity in the U.S., and socio-spatial segregation and the geography of wealth. Seniors present their research at the annual Sociology/Anthropology Research Symposium, which is now in its 32nd year.

Research Interests

My research focuses on wife abuse, including battering, marital rape, and abuse during pregnancy and I’ve published a number of articles and books on these issues. I recently conducted family violence research as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Estonia, the country my family escaped as political refugees from Soviet occupation. I had the opportunity to teach a seminar on Violence against Women at Tallinn University and consult with policy makers working to integrate Estonia into the European Union. I have also worked on projects with both Boston Children’s Hospital and the U.S. Marine Corps evaluating the effectiveness of efforts to reduce domestic violence.

My current focus is on developing a global response to sexual violence in marriage. In partnership with anthropologist Gabriela Torres, I am working to move the issue of marital rape from the margins of scholarship on violence against women.  There has been a profound silence around sexual violence in marriage and we are breaking that silence. With support of a grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Prof. Torres and I organized the very first international meeting to address the issue of marital rape. We  have now founded the Marital Rape Network, a collaborative, interdisciplinary network of scholars and activists, to advance research on this form of violence around the globe. We are now editing a book entitled Marital Rape: Consent, Marriage and Social Change in Global Context which is under contract with Oxford University Press.