Associate Professor,
Department of Psychology
University of Missouri-St. Louis
216 Stadler Hall
One University Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63121-4499
Phone: 314-516-7124
Email: petersonz@umsl.edu
Curriculum Vitae

I earned a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies from the University of Kansas in 2005 with a clinical internship at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. I then spent two years as a Clinical Research Postdoctoral Fellow at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, where I conducted sexuality-related research and provided sex therapy to individuals and couples. I joined the Clinical Psychology faculty at UMSL in 2007.


Broadly, my teaching and research interests are in the areas of gender and human sexuality. More specifically, I have three primary and interrelated research interests: (1) understanding experiences of unwanted, coerced, and nonconsensual sex from the perspectives of both victims and perpetrators; (2) investigating the role of cognitive and emotional ambivalence in individuals' sexual experiences; and (3) exploring the socially-constructed labels that individuals apply to their consensual and non-consensual sexual experiences and to their sexual identities (e.g., What counts as "sex"? What counts as "rape"? What is a "lesbian"? What is a "heterosexual"?). My research also considers the potentially important influence of gender within each of these topic areas.

Doctoral students in my laboratory have recently conducted research related to (1) men's and women’s perpetration of sexual aggression, (2) men's and women’s experiences as victims of child sexual abuse and adult sexual assault, (3) the role of traditional gendered sexual scripts on men’s and women’s sexual behavior, and (4) individuals’ definitions of sexual terms (e.g., “cheating” and “masturbation”).

Doctoral clinical psychology students who are active in my lab are eligible to complete an emphasis in Gender and Diversity Studies or Trauma Studies, depending on the focus of their research.

Undergraduate research assistants contribute to the research in my lab in a variety of ways, including administering research protocols, conducting interviews, entering quantitative data, coding qualitative data, and conducting literature searches. If you are a Psychology major at UMSL who is interested in working in my lab, please contact me to see if I have openings.

I am a member of the UM-St. Louis Safe Zone community. I welcome and value diversity of all kinds in my lab and in the classroom.