Psychology - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Psychological functioning and bereavement care needs of bereaved Chinese immigrants in Canada

Date created: 
2017-12-12
Abstract: 

The death of a loved one can be associated with significant physical and psychological morbidity for bereaved individuals. Bereavement care services aim to foster healthy adjustment to loss. Research and clinical observations, however, suggest that such services are under-utilized by ethnic minorities and immigrants. Using a mixed methods design, the current research examined the psychological functioning of bereaved Chinese-Canadian immigrants, and factors related to their access and utilization of bereavement care. Twenty-five first-generation Chinese-Canadian immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Mainland China, who had been bereaved for 6 months to 3 years, completed Chinese-translated questionnaires on depression, anxiety, somatic symptoms, coping, and acculturation. Semi-structured interviews focused on their grief experiences, knowledge and experiences with bereavement care, and perception on barriers to access and ways to improve services. Quantitative results revealed that over half of the participants scored above clinical cut-offs on depression (56%), state anxiety (60%) and trait anxiety (64%). Eight themes emerged from the qualitative data. Chinese cultural grammar, being an immigrant in a foreign land, and navigating uncharted territories in a foreign health care system represented contextual forces that interacted to form barriers to accessing bereavement care. Bereavement as a lonely journey represented the core concern of the participants, with coping strategies, religion and spirituality, post-loss changes and growth, and ideal services emerging as outcome categories. Combined analyses on quantitative and qualitative data found that those displaying intense grief during interview also scored higher on depression and state anxiety. Emotion-oriented coping was associated with poorer psychological functioning, while taking solace in “good death”, cognitive reframing and discussing the loss with family predicted better adjustment. Those whose family members passed away in Canada or had received palliative care prior to death were more likely to receive pre-bereavement and/or bereavement follow-up care. Psychological morbidity and lack of discussion of grief with family were associated with increased initiative to seek professional help. Initiative to seek help, together with psychological morbidity, predicted subsequent access to bereavement interventions.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
David Cox
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Social learning and social motivation: Examining parent-child interactions

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-12-07
Abstract: 

Humans are unique in our ability to learn from one another. Our sensitivity to non-verbal communicative cues has been argued to facilitate the learning process, drawing attention to critical information in the learning context. However, it is unclear whether these behaviours derive from children’s motivation to learn, or the motivation to interact and affiliate with others. I examined the use of non-verbal communicative cues in a social learning context in 50 parent-child dyads, with children varying in their desire to interact with others (range = 7-12 years): 26 typically developing (TD) children and 24 children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). When instructed to teach their child a new skill, parents of TD and ASD children produced similar amounts of non-verbal communicative cues. However, children with ASD appeared to use these cues to adjust their behaviour less than their same-age TD peers. Although children with ASD took longer to learn a novel skill, both when learning from a parent and on their own, children’s learning efficiency (speed of learning) was not related to their use of communicative cues from their parent. Finally, children’s parent-reported social responsiveness (as measured by the Multidimensional Social Competence Scale) was positively related to their use of communicative cues.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Tanya Broesch
Grace Iarocci
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Self-compassion and emotional responses to interpersonal rejection in individuals with borderline personality features

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-11-08
Abstract: 

The primary aim of this study was to determine whether a self-compassion manipulation has promise in addressing a core interpersonal vulnerability (sensitivity to social rejection) in borderline personality disorder (BPD). Forty-nine participants with high BP features were randomly assigned to complete a state self-compassion writing induction or a neutral control writing task. Participants then experienced self-relevant interpersonal rejection through receiving feedback on personal profile questions from another (fictional) participant. Emotional state was assessed at baseline, pre-manipulation, and post-rejection. Participants in both conditions demonstrated heightened negative affect, hostility, and irritability and reduced positive affect following the rejection. Contrary to hypotheses, participants in the self-compassion group did not demonstrate significantly different changes in positive affect, negative affect, shame, hostility, or irritability compared to participants in the control group. These results suggest that more intensive self-compassion interventions may be critical in future research on BPD and interpersonal difficulties.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Alexander Chapman
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Exploring the Process and Maintenance of Desistance from Offending

Date created: 
2017-11-08
Abstract: 

The purpose of the present study was to examine factors connected to periods of unsuccessful, successful, and maintained desistance. To facilitate this goal, the study was structured around a dynamic conceptualization of desistance and examined the subjective perceptions of 20 self-reported official and behavioural desisters (median and mode age of 30 years) who participated in semi-structured interviews based on a life history narrative approach. Interviews lasted an average of 72 minutes and produced a total of 469 single spaced pages of verified transcripts. Themes were generated through a five stage interpretative phenomenological analysis coding procedure, related to the five stages of the offending and desistance cycle. Overall, participants attributed offending to external factors within their environment, but incorporated the ramifications of their offending into their identities. Participants linked unsuccessful desistance periods to external factors such as experiencing external controls (e.g. physical ailments) or having others attempt to force behavioural change. Resurgence in criminal behaviour following unsuccessful desistance periods was often linked to a cascading breakdown of desistance factors after participants experienced an offending trigger, such as losing employment or relapsing into substance use. In contrast, participants linked successful desistance periods to their identity, and experiencing a desire to change that helped motivate them to attain a positive possible future and to positively overcome threats to their desistance. In addition to identity change, maintenance of desistance was attributed to a change in environment, gaining social capital, and a desire to maintain progress in a positive life direction. Notably, participants tended to report first experiencing identity changes, which led to cognitive transformations and the accumulation of social capital, which ultimately supported sustained desistance. However, there is likely no golden rule that can be applied to all offenders to help them desist. Rather it is important to understand and respect the multifaceted, dynamic, complex, and individual nature of desistance from offending.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Kathleen Slaney
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Exploring human cognition through multivariate data visualization

Date created: 
2017-11-03
Abstract: 

Entire disciplines are dedicated to separately exploring the relationship between sensation and perception; attention and learning; and information access and decision making. This work aims to bridge these fields though studies of data visualizations and decision making. A data visualization communicates information about synthesized data points for an observer. For graphical communication to work, all parties involved must understand regularities in the representations that are being used. Extracting regularities from observations is in the category learning wheelhouse, and so methods and findings from categorization literature are used to inform this work. Through the following experiments, the perception of multivariate data via visualization is explored. The framework for this exploration is an extension of existing proposals for a science of data visualization. The present work extends existing proposals by adding decision making as a critical element for a science of visualization. It’s great to understand how people can read a graph, but it’s even more informative to understand how that reading influences their actions.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Mark Blair
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Body image and sexual satisfaction in mixed-sex couples: The mediating role of sexual anxiety

Date created: 
2017-12-06
Abstract: 

Body satisfaction predicts sexual satisfaction (e.g., Pujols, Meston, & Seal, 2010; Holt & Lyness, 2007), and may have indirect effects on sexual satisfaction through sexual anxiety. In a sample of mixed-sex dating couples, I predicted that, over one year, increases in body satisfaction would predict increases in actor sexual satisfaction, increases in body satisfaction would predict decreases in actor sexual anxiety, and increases in sexual anxiety would predict decreases in actor sexual satisfaction. I also predicted indirect effects of changes in actor body satisfaction on actor and partner sexual satisfaction through changes in actor sexual anxiety. Results of multiple linear modelling were consistent with all predictions for women and men. Specifically, changes in body satisfaction had indirect actor and partner effects on changes in sexual satisfaction through changes in actor sexual anxiety. Results suggest that body dissatisfaction has negative implications for couples’ sexual satisfaction through its effects on sexual anxiety.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Rebecca Cobb
Alexander Chapman
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Adolescent attachment and problem behaviours among teens: The roles of parental adult attachment

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-11-30
Abstract: 

Teens with insecure attachment are at risk of developing problem behaviours, but the roles that parents’ attachment strategies play in the development of adolescent problem behaviours is rarely explored. This study examined the direct and indirect impacts of parents’ attachment strategies on teens’ mental health in a clinical population. Results indicated that while parents’ attachment strategies were uncorrelated with adolescent problem behaviours, they moderated the relationships between teens’ attachment strategies and internalizing problems, but not externalizing problems. Specifically, parents’ avoidant attachment strategies were associated with teens’ heightened vulnerability to internalizing problems, especially among teens less prone to internalizing problems. Importantly, while teens’ secure attachment strategies were generally associated with low levels of internalizing problems, the protective effect of attachment security was no longer present when parents consistently relied on avoidant attachment strategies, demonstrating a dismissing attachment style. Implications of these findings are discussed.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Marlene Moretti
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Truth and Deception in Informants' Accounts of Criminal Admissions

Date created: 
2017-07-13
Abstract: 

Informants who report admissions to crime can be powerful and dangerous players in the criminal justice system. Some informants, such as jailhouse informants, are considered deceitful, in part because they can receive incentives to report criminal admissions. However, little research has examined the nature of information that informants provide. In particular, no recent published research has examined whether there are valid behavioural cues that distinguish deceptive from truthful informants. In addition, no published study to date has explored whether informants’ reports and demeanours are affected by the incentives that they receive. Participants in this study either did or did not hear a criminal admission and then were interviewed one week later about details of the admission they had allegedly heard. Some participants were offered an incentive to report the criminal admission in a way that appeared accurate and forthcoming. The results of this study suggest that there may be behavioural cues emitted during the reporting of criminal admissions that distinguish truthful from deceptive informants. However, the direction of differences for some cues may deviate from other types of witnesses to crime. In addition, the findings of this study indicate that being offered an incentive may induce informants to emit cues during the reporting of criminal admissions that make them appear more truthful, regardless of whether or not they are actually telling the truth. The findings of this study raise concerns about whether informants’ honesty should be assessed in the same way as other witnesses, and about potentially negative consequences of offering incentives to informants in exchange for their reports of criminal admissions.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
J. Don Read
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Structured Professional Assessment and Management of Self-Directed Violence (SDV): The SDV-20

Date created: 
2017-07-20
Abstract: 

Suicidal behaviour has been documented in almost every country and was the second leading cause of death in 2012 among persons aged 15 to 29 (World Health Organization, 2014). Each year, up to one million people die by suicide worldwide. Suicide is a global challenge for medical and mental health organizations, and presents a significant systemic burden if not managed effectively (Knox & Caine, 2005). Currently, there appears to be an over-reliance on the use of “checklist” methods for assessing suicide risk (e.g., SAD PERSONS; Patterson, Dohn, Bird, & Patterson, 1983), and a great need for empirically guided risk assessment approaches that utilize the advantages of clinical or professional judgment, rather than relying solely on the outcome of quantitative or checklist measures (Range, 2005). Strict quantitative or statistical approaches often do not adequately capture the range of dispositional and contextual factors influencing risk for particular behaviours (Hart, 2008; Hart & Cooke, 2013). Thus, the purpose of the current project will be to conduct a systematic and selected review of the literature and develop a set of structured professional judgment guidelines for assessing suicide risk.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Alexander L. Chapman
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Is pop-out search impaired during the period of the attentional blink?

Date created: 
2017-06-22
Abstract: 

The involvement of attention in pop-out visual search is controversial. According to some theories, efficient pop-out search is accomplished preattentively, while others claim the involvement of attention is essential. In the present work, the role of attention in performing pop-out search tasks was elucidated by manipulating the availability of attention using an attentional blink (AB) paradigm. In Chapter 2, the efficiency of pop-out search – indexed by the slope of response time (RT) functions over the number of items in the search array – was examined throughout the period of the AB. Search efficiency was found to be unaffected by the AB, although the overall level of RT was slower during the AB. These findings suggest the action of at least two separable mechanisms underlying performance in pop-out search tasks, indexed by level and efficiency of search, which are affected in different ways by the availability of attention. In Chapter 3, the role of selective attention in pop-out search was examined by measuring the onset latency of the N2pc, an event-related potential index of attentional selection. Both the RT and the N2pc measures were delayed during the AB, but the delay in N2pc was substantially shorter than that in RT. This pattern of results points to multiple sources of delay in the chain of processing events, as distinct from the single source postulated in current theories of the AB, and strongly suggests that selective attention is involved in pop-out search tasks. In Chapter 4, the relative exogenous and endogenous salience of two targets (T2, T3) presented throughout the period of the AB were manipulated in order to assess whether the perception of salience is impaired during the AB. The perception of temporal order of these targets was measured. Both exogenous and endogenous salience were found to be effective in modulating the perception of temporal order throughout the period of the AB, suggesting that the effect of salience is broadly additive with the overall AB effect. In Chapter 5, the implications of these findings for both search and the AB, are discussed and future research directions are proposed.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Thomas Spalek
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.