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Elizabeth Hintz, Ph.D. - University of Connecticut. Storrs, CT, US

Elizabeth Hintz, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Communication | University of Connecticut


Elizabeth Hintz’s research examines how individuals manage complex, stigmatized, and poorly understood health conditions.


Elizabeth Hintz is an Assistant Professor of Health Communication at the University of Connecticut. Elizabeth’s research examines how individuals managing complex, stigmatized, and poorly understood health conditions experience and navigate challenging conversations with partners, family members, and clinicians.

Her work can be found in journals such as Journal of Communication, Communication Monographs, Communication Methods and Measures, Health Communication, and Journal of Family Communication. Her work has been featured by outlets such as WIRED, ScienceLine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the National Communication Association’s Communication Currents. Her work has received more than 10 top paper awards as well as numerous research and teaching awards.

Areas of Expertise (8)

Chronic Pain

Medical Gaslighting

Voluntary Childlessness


Sexual Health

Reproductive Justice

Medically unexplained symptoms

Interpersonal, Family, and Health Communication

Education (3)

University of South Florida: Ph.D., Interpersonal Health Communication 2021

Purdue University: M.A., Interpersonal Health Communication 2018

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay: B.A., Communication 2015

Accomplishments (5)

Leslie A. Baxter Early Career Award, Family Communication Division, NCA (professional)


Early Career Award, Interpersonal Communication Division, NCA (professional)


Outstanding Dissertation Award, Interpersonal Communication Division, NCA (professional)


Nancy Burrell Award, CSCA Interpersonal and Family Communication Division (professional)


Donald P. Cushman Memorial Award for Outstanding Scholarship, NCA (professional)







loading image Elizabeth Hintz loading image Elizabeth Hintz was recognized by the National Communication Association with several awards in 2023. loading image



Media Appearances (4)

Bias in health care affects women, new study finds

The Daily Illini  online


Communicative disenfranchisement is defined by Elizabeth Hintz from the University of Connecticut as “disempowering talk which results in an individual or group’s diminished capacity to participate meaningfully in society through effects on agency, perceived credibility, legitimacy and/or rights and privileges.” The study observed 36 women in the U.S. with chronic pain disorders ranging from ages from 21 to 70. Among these disorders were polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis and cancer.

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The adults celebrating child-free lives

BBC  online


The term ‘child-free’ has existed since the early 1900s, although it wasn’t until the 1970s that feminists began using it more widely, as a way of denoting women who were voluntarily childless as a distinct group. The suffix ‘free’ was chosen to capture the sense of freedom and lack of obligation felt by many of those who had voluntarily decided not to have kids. However, most academic research has typically “lumped all people who don’t have children into the same group,” explains Elizabeth Hintz, an assistant professor in communication at the University of Connecticut, US, who’s studied perceptions of child-free identities. This doesn’t reflect the very different experiences and feelings of child-free and childless people, she says, and means there’s a lack of long-term comparative data looking specifically at either group.

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Childfree Communication Challenges & Access to Sterilization

New Legacy Radio  online


Our guest today is Dr. Elizabeth Hintz, who has done extensive research on this topic. We will examine the extreme differences in access to permanent contraception by those who can become pregnant and those seeking vasectomies, and discuss how the post Roe v Wade (Dobbs) ruling continues to impact access to sterilization, while a rise in vasectomies has been notable. Dr. Hintz’s expertise in the field of communication brings a unique and much needed perspective to the ongoing social confrontations and communication challenges experienced by those who do not have children, and in particular, those who are childfree.

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Permanent Birth Control Is in Demand in the US—but Hard to Get

WIRED  online


The concept of the risk of regret is a significant barrier to access and is based on the subjective opinion that people who can become pregnant will always want to bear children. In reality, this isn’t true. The largest study to look at rates of reported regret in sterilized women—the Collaborative Review of Sterilization—followed 11,000 sterilized women for 14 years after having the procedure. It found that childfree women who had been sterilized reported the lowest rates of regret among all groups of patients. “And yet this myth that women, especially women without children, will come to regret their decision to be sterilized persists,” says Elizabeth Hintz, an assistant professor of health communication at the University of Connecticut.

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Articles (6)

Developing Measures for and Testing the Theory of Communicative Disenfranchisement (TCD) in the Context of Chronic Pain

Health Communication

2023 The post-positivist articulation of the theory of communicative disenfranchisement (TCD) asserts that people subjected to disenfranchising talk (DT; talk that discredits, silences, and stereotypes) experience proximal consequences (PCs; reduced agency, perceived credibility, and ability to exercise rights and privileges) and make negative inferences about others’ future interactional goals (negative goal inferences [NGIs]). Through the mediators of PCs and NGIs, DT is theorized to lead to more distal health and well-being outcomes. This article developed measures of DT, PCs, and NGIs to test the TCD’s post-positivist model in the context of chronic pain. Items were developed and refined in a pilot study.

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“I hate all the children, especially mine”: Applying relational dialectics theory to examine the experiences of formerly childfree regretful parents

Journal of Social and Personal Relationships

2023 Guided by relational dialectics theory (RDT), we analyzed 85 first-person testimonials of parental regret written by users of the /r/childfree subreddit. We interrogated how competing discourses animate what it means to be a parent (our semantic object). Contrapuntal analysis revealed dominant and marginalized Discourses of Parenting as Heaven (DPHN) and Parenting as Hell on Earth (DPHL), respectively, as well as a third Discourse of Parenting as (the Only) Choice (DPOC). We identified three kinds of dialogically contractive practices including a new form we call fear of missing out (FOMO), two forms of diachronic separation, four forms of synchronic interplay including a new form we introduce (i.e., allying) that is useful when more than two discourses compete, and one form of dialogic transformation.

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Making sense of changes in military partners’ post-deployment adjustment concern: Turning points, trajectories, and accounts

Journal of Social and Personal Relationships

2023 Reintegration after a military service member returns home from deployment is a time of uncertainty that requires adjustment by all family members. Building on accounts (i.e., story-like constructions that help make sense of stressful events) scholarship, this study documents (a) turning points and (b) patterns in partners’ levels of concern about post-deployment adjustment and investigates (c) how romantic partners account for why changes in adjustment concern occurred. Findings from interviews with 26 military partners reveal that accounts (a) involve multifaceted explanations spanning many domains of life, (b) explain why certain TPs increased and/or decreased concern, and (c) engage the meaning of time in varied ways.

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Examining the Importance of Developing Entrepreneurial Communication Skills in Accelerator Programs: A Focus Group Based Approach

Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy

2023 Entrepreneurial accelerator programs have emerged within university settings as a solution to reduce the notably high failure rate of new ventures. Accelerators seek to support entrepreneurs by providing services and experiences that prepare participants to confront challenges that occur throughout the entrepreneurial journey and connect them to a broader business ecosystem. However, despite existing research that points to a correlation between an entrepreneur’s communication skills and the firm’s ability to achieve key business milestones, the existing literature does not identify which specific communication skills entrepreneurs need nor the situations/audiences in which these skills are most applicable.

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Contesting illness: communicative (dis)enfranchisement in patient–provider conversations about chronic overlapping pain conditions

Human Communication Research

2023 Guided by the theory of communicative (dis)enfranchisement (TCD), this study analyzes 738 narratives describing negative (n = 381) and positive (n = 357) patient–provider interactions recounted by 399 female-identifying patients residing in 22 countries who are living with poorly understood chronic overlapping pain conditions (COPCs) such as fibromyalgia, vulvodynia, and endometriosis. Using thematic co-occurrence analysis (TCA), a novel method that builds on the identification of themes to map and visualize conceptual interrelationships, we identify nine enactments of (dis)enfranchising talk (DT) across three functions (discrediting, silencing, and stereotyping), four domains of consequences of DT (perceptual, emotional, physical, and material), and two patterns of co-occurrence between functions and consequences of DT (discrediting and physical, silencing and emotional).

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What is voluntary sterilization? A health communication expert unpacks how a legacy of forced sterilization shapes doctor-patient conversations today

The Conversation


Sterilization is a safe and effective form of permanent birth control used by more than 220 million couples around the world. Despite its prevalence, however, patients seeking sterilization from their doctors often face a surprising number of challenges. In men, the sterilization process is known as a vasectomy, which involves severing the tubes that carry the supply of sperm to the semen. In women, sterilization involves a procedure called tubal ligation. In this form of permanent birth control, the fallopian tubes are severed – or ligated – preventing eggs produced by the ovaries from traveling through the fallopian tubes to fertilize an egg. Vasectomies and tubal ligations can be reversed in some cases, although success rates vary widely.

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