Laurence T Droy

2016 AFPGR Participant

 Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): Explaining the occurrence of a harmful practice with computational simulations of social groups

About Laurence

Laurence graduated with First-Class Honours in Psychology (BSc) from the University of Leicester in July 2014. He then worked as a project coordinator within the sports construction industry for a period. Laurence returned to the University to begin a doctorate in the Department of Sociology in April of 2015. In addition to his doctoral research, Laurence is a Graduate Research Assistant within the Department. Laurence is also a collaborator on two additional research projects related to social network formation and the social consequences of parental child relocation disputes.

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About My Research

My research focus is on using computer simulations to understand social phenomena. In my doctoral thesis research, I am using Agent-Based Modelling (ABM - a form of computer simulation) to study the incidence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Sub-Saharan Africa. The relatively novel approach to this topic that I take in my research involves representing qualitative theories about the incidence of FGM in computer simulations. Representing these qualitative theories in formal models allows me to examine their predictions at the level of communities and larger populations. Currently, I am working with some draft simulation ‘models’ of theories of FGM. At this early stage, I have focused, in particular, on models of social norm theory. Broadly, social norm theory claims that FGM is held in place by social pressure and mutual social expectations.

Research Findings

So far, I have been able to show that simulation models of social norm theory can offer an explanation for a number of patterns in survey data collected in Senegal by the DHS Program. Moving forward, I hope to create simulations of other applicable theories and to test these against additional sources of secondary data. Ultimately, I hope to integrate different theoretical accounts to create an improved theoretical model of the incidence of FGM. These efforts will help me to identify the social processes which lead to the persistence of FGM, or its abandonment. In turn, I hope to provide insights that will be useful for policy makers seeking to end the practice.  

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