Jessica Pratezina

Jessica Pratezina
PhD (2021-2025)
Individual Interdisciplinary Studies

Recipient of the Myer Horowitz Conference Award (2022)

Jessica Pratezina is a PhD student in the Individual Interdisciplinary program at the University of Victoria where she works in the intersection between Child and Youth Care and Sociology. Her research is connected by the common thread of human change, both at the micro level of individuals and families and the macro level of broader communities and societies.

Her SSHRC funded MA thesis is a narrative analysis of memoirs written by women who were raised in and then left alternative religious communities (i.e. groups that are popularly called “cults”). She draws on child and youth care theory to consider the experiences of those she terms Alternative Religion Kids (ARKs). She also utilizes theories of religious change (conversion) from sociology from which she has developed a model of religious disaffiliation that describes the experiences of those who leave alternative religions. In addition, she looks at the intersection of child welfare and controversial religious groups and considers how helpers and social service workers can work wisely and respectfully with people involved in alternative religions. In 2019-2020, she was a graduate fellow at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society.

Jessica’s PhD research focuses on positive father involvement as an issue of gender equality, particularly in a post COVID-19 society. Though magnified by the recent crisis, disparities between mothers and fathers in time spent in caring responsibilities represents a longstanding social and economic problem that has been explored by scholars, policymakers, and activists for decades but with remarkably little change as a result. Dubbed “the motherhood penalty’, these inequalities in caring responsibilities have impacted mother’s economic stability and mobility. As women assume even more responsibilities during shelter-at-home orders and school and childcare closures, early reports express concern over the long-term mental health, career and economic implications of COVID 19 on the lives of women and point to the need to invest more in programs to help women cope.

Despite this awareness, increased positive father involvement is rarely suggested as a way to manage the unequal burden of care placed on women as a result of the pandemic. Little attention has been paid to strategies that could increase fathers’ involvement in mitigating potentially catastrophic outcomes for women and families. However, doing so means changing deeply held beliefs and social narratives around gender roles and expectations. More broadly, she considers both how large-scale social change about deeply held beliefs and narratives can be shifted.

With funds from the Centre for Youth & Society's Myer Horowitz Award, Jessica was able to travel to San Antonio, Texas, for the 2021 American Academy of Religion Conference. She was an invited speaker on a panel about abuse and harm in New Religious Movements and how this intersects with child welfare. The panel was filmed as a resource for other scholars as well as social workers, therapeutic, and mental health professionals.

A group of young women and girls in dresses carrying piles of belongings outside a church at night
Young women and children in El Dorado, TX, being removed by CPS from a polygamous sect's ranch (2008). Photo credit: Trent Nelson (

Recent publications

Pratezina, J. (2022). Review article: Doubt and desire: Women’s narratives of leaving alternative religious movements. Nova Religio. (In Press).

Pratezina, J. (2021). “The least important person in the room”: Father involvement as a critical factor in gender equality. Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, 34(3).

Ball, J. & Pratezina, J. (2021). Father’s Day: Support dads as parents, not just ‘mother’s helpers.” The Conversation.

Pratezina, J. (2019). Alternative religion kids: Spiritual and cultural identity among children and youth involved with new religious movements. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 24, 73-82.

It's About Time research-podcast