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

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Promoting understanding and acceptance in parents of trans and gender nonconforming youth: An adaptation of an attachment-based parent program

Date created: 
2019-01-16
Abstract: 

Gender nonconforming and trans youth experience high rates of bullying and victimization, placing them at risk for serious mental health challenges. Caregiver support is one of the most significant protective factors in this population, and parenting interventions that promote understanding and acceptance are needed to support the well-being of teens and their families. Connect (Moretti & Braber, 2013), a group attachment-based intervention for caregivers, has been shown to promote attachment security within the parent-teen relationship, increase caregiver sense of efficacy, and reduce teen emotional problems for up to two years post-treatment. During this strength-focused program, caregivers learn to “step back” in their interactions, to “step into” their teen’s shoes, and to better understand and respond to their teen’s attachment needs. This study examines the acceptance, uptake, and caregiver satisfaction of an adapted version of Connect which addresses the unique attachment related challenges and concerns of caregivers of trans and gender nonconforming youth. Adaptations were completed in consultation with a panel of mental health professionals to address relevant themes expressed by these families and to modify experiential learning content. Participants in the first three groups were 20 caregivers of 16 gender nonconforming youth (ages 12 - 18). On average, caregivers attended 9.2 sessions of the ten-week program and on questionnaires completed post intervention, reported feeling respected, safe, and welcomed in the group. They indicated that learning about attachment was helpful in enhancing their understanding of their teen and their understanding of themselves as parents. Caregivers also rated the group as helpful in increasing their understanding of their teen’s gender journey. During clinical interviews, caregivers reported feeling more confident in parenting and being able to empathize with their teen more easily. Common themes in group discussions related to gender included: coming out, finding support, affirming pronouns/names, medical transition, parental reactions (e.g. confusion, isolation, acceptance, grief), and concerns about safety and mental health. Qualitative analyses of group skills revealed that across sessions, caregivers demonstrated an increased capacity to “step back” and reflect on their teen’s experience and their own. Findings support the usefulness of this intervention, and feedback has informed further revisions of the program with the goal of co-creating a safe, helpful, gender-affirming intervention. Clinical implications and next steps are discussed.

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

Examining the experience of trans identity and gender transition through the lens of cisgender siblings: A phenomenological investigation

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-11-05
Abstract: 

Previous research on the transitioning process has focused on the experiences of transgender/gender nonbinary individuals and their parents, paying limited attention to the trans persons’ siblings. The purpose of this study was to examine how youth and young adults experience a trans sibling's gender identity and transition. Using qualitative methodology, eleven cisgender participants (M = 17.9; SD = 4.9; range = 14 to 34 years old) were individually interviewed in medium- and large-sized Canadian cities. Interview topics included: the participant’s role in their sibling’s transition; the impact of the transition on the participant and their family and peer relationships; and the participant’s attitudes toward services aimed at supporting themselves through their sibling’s transition. Interview transcripts were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Ten participants completed member checking procedures to verify the accuracy of the data. Participants described wide-ranging emotional responses and overall positive attitudes toward their sibling’s trans identity and transition. Participants highlighted the importance of demonstrating to their trans sibling respect, compassion, and support. The adjustment process by the immediate family unit was regarded as manageable overall. Challenging interpersonal dynamics involving participants’ parents, extended family members, peers, and other extra familial individuals were discussed. Perspectives on the value and preferred type of structured support for siblings of trans individuals varied across participants. These findings provide novel insight into the lived experiences of siblings of trans people, thereby enriching our understanding of the transition process as experienced by the collective family unit. Study findings offer practical guidance for trans individuals, their parents, siblings, and clinicians. Strategies to improve support programs for trans individuals and their family members are addressed.

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

Circadian food anticipatory activity across the seasons: The relationship between feeding schedules and photoperiod in mice

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-14
Abstract: 

Daily feeding schedules induce circadian rhythms of food anticipatory activity (FAA) by entrainment of circadian oscillators outside of the master light-entrainable pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Efforts to localize these food-entrainable oscillators (FEOs) and specify molecular mechanisms have been complicated by the wide range of non-circadian factors that can modulate expression of food-motivated behaviours. Here, we examine the effect of photoperiod (duration of the daily light period) on FAA induced in mice by restricting food to a 4h daily meal in the light period, the usual rest phase in nocturnal rodents.To express FAA in the light period, FEOs must compete with SCN clock outputs, which normally suppress activity and promote sleep at this time of day. Photoperiod modifies both the period () and amplitude of the SCN pacemaker, as indicated by aftereffects of long and short days on  and on the phase shift response to light pulses in constant dark (DD). Exposure to long days is thought to reduce SCN amplitude, and would be expected to permit greater FAA to a daytime meal. To test this prediction, mice were entrained to a 16h light:8h dark (L16) or L8 cycle, with or without running discs, and then maintained in DD for 2 weeks. Mice previously entrained to L16 exhibited a shorter  and smaller phase shift to light in DD, confirming an effect of photoperiod on the SCN pacemaker. After re-entrainment to L16 or L8, food was restricted to the last 4h of the light period. FAA was enhanced in L16 in mice with running discs, but the difference was reversed in mice without running discs. Additional groups of mice were entrained to L18, L16, L12 or L8, and the 4h daily meal was centered in the light period. Prior to restricted feeding, photoperiod modified parameters of the light-entrained rhythms as expected. During restricted feeding, there was no systematic effect of photoperiod on FAA. After restricted feeding, an aftereffect of photoperiod on  in DD was absent. Centering of daily mealtime in the light period may block the effect of photoperiod on the SCN pacemaker, and thereby eliminate the potential impact of day length on the expression of FAA to daytime meals.

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

The influence of risk assessment evidence on judicial sentencing decisions

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-11
Abstract: 

Despite the increased presence of risk assessment evidence in sentencing proceedings, its role has been contentious, and judges’ use of this evidence is unclear. This study examines judges’ opinions about risk assessment tools and assesses the influence of tools on judicial sentencing decisions. Specifically, it uses an experimental vignette design to evaluate whether judges’ impressions of a hypothetical offender or their sentencing recommendations are affected by the presence of an empirically-supported tool and accompanying risk rating. Participants were 170 judges from 34 American states and two Canadian provinces. The most common advantage of tools highlighted by judges was that they provide information that is helpful for making decisions, while the most common concern was their potential to obscure bias. Judges’ impressions and placement recommendations were not significantly influenced by tool presence. Judges’ program recommendations, however, were more intensive and consistent for the high-risk offender when a tool was present.

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

Change detection and Chinese characters: The reader advantage

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-10-22
Abstract: 

The change-detection task can be used to assess how efficiently individuals perceive visual information. While reading ability allows us to efficiently recognize written characters, little is known about whether it also facilitates detection of changes to these characters. Three experiments were conducted to investigate this question. Participants saw many Chinese characters or Chinese-like artificial characters in flickering images and were required to find the one that was changing. Chinese readers were faster than non-readers when detecting changes to Chinese characters, but there was no difference between the performance of readers and non-readers when detecting changes to meaningless artificial characters. Also, readers detected changes faster when all of the unchanging characters were Chinese, and slower when they were artificial. These findings demonstrate a reader advantage when detecting changes to Chinese characters. That is, readers' ability to differentiate meaningful and meaningless written characters allowed them to detect character changes more efficiently.

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

The "error" in psychology: An analysis of quantitative and qualitative approaches in the pursuit of accuracy

Date created: 
2018-10-12
Abstract: 

The concept of “error” is central to the development and use of statistical tools in psychology. Yet, little work has focused on elucidating its conceptual meanings and the potential implications for research practice. I explore the emergence of uses of the “error” concept within the field of psychology through a historical mapping of its uses from early observational astronomy, to the study of social statistics, and subsequently to its adoption under 20th century psychometrics. In so doing, I consider the philosophical foundations on which the concepts “error” and “true score” are built and the relevance of these foundations for its usages in psychology. Given the recent surge in interest in qualitative research methods in psychology, I also investigate whether a notion of “error” is relevant to qualitative research practice. In particular, I conduct a content analysis of usages of the term “reliability” within the qualitative methodological literature as a proxy for the concept of “error” within the qualitative research domain. Finally, I compare my explorations of discourse around quantitative and qualitative methods. I conclude that although researchers using methodological tools from these two traditions may hold opposing views on knowledge and truth, they also share a common aim of accuracy. Implications for research practice and education in psychology are discussed.

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

Group cognitive behaviour therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder and comorbid anxiety: Examining factors that impact outcomes

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-09-26
Abstract: 

Anxiety is common in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD; MacNeil, Lopes, & Minnes, 2009; Kim, Szatmari, Bryson, Streiner, & Wilson, 2000; White, Oswald, Ollendick, & Scahill, 2009) and can lead to significant impairment (Farrugia & Hudson, 2006; Kim et al., 2000; van Steensel, Bögels, & Dirksen, 2012). Implementing treatments in real-world environments has been identified as one of the top priorities for researchers in the area of anxiety in youth with ASD (Vasa, Keefer, Reaven, South & White, 2018). The current study examined the effectiveness of a manualized, group-based Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT; Facing Your Fears (FYF); Reaven, Blakeley‐Smith, Culhane‐Shelburne, & Hepburn, 2012; Reaven, Blakeley-Smith, Nichols, & Hepburn, 2011) with children with ASD without intellectual disability (IQ>70) and their parents at BC Children’s Hospital. The primary goals of this research were to a) measure the effectiveness of the treatment protocol in a community setting with a complex population, and b) examine a selection of possible predictors of treatment outcomes (e.g., amount of homework completion, level of clinician-provided parent support during in vivo exposure practice, parent-child relationship variables, and parent personality variables), and thus contribute to the sparse literature in this regard. Significant decreases in child anxiety were observed from pre- to post-treatment at the levels of a) parent questionnaire ratings (ηp2 = .36), b) clinician severity ratings based on parent interview (d=.98), and c) parent ratings on primary individual exposure targets (last 7 weeks of group; d=1.50). After controlling for baseline child anxiety, variables that were found to significantly predict parent ratings of child anxiety symptoms at post-treatment were a) level of clinician support provided during in vivo exposure practice, b) parent-child communication, and c) self-reported parent trait anxiety. Overall, results from the current study are consistent with previous research demonstrating the effectiveness of the FYF treatment program for children with ASD.

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

A longitudinal bidirectional analysis of early school age anxiety and maternal warmth and the prediction of internalizing symptoms in late childhood and adolescence

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-09-19
Abstract: 

The purpose of this study was to extend previous research on the bidirectional relationship between parental warmth and child anxiety, and to further examine the predictive utility of parental warmth on later child anxiety and depressive disorder outcomes. Parental warmth has previously been identified as a contributing factor to child anxiety (e.g., McLeod et al., 2007b, Yap et al., 2014; Yap & Jorm, 2015); however, the bidirectionality of these constructs has only once been measured in a population of children at early school-age (Gouze, Hopkins, Bryant, & Lavigne, 2017), and has not before been measured both longitudinally and observationally. The results of this study extend previous research suggesting that child psychopathology may result in increasing negative parenting behaviours over time. Conversely, a parent-effect was not found; low maternal warmth was not shown to significantly predict subsequent increases in child anxiety at early school-age. This study did not find main effects of early school-age maternal warmth on anxiety and depressive disorder criterion counts in middle childhood through adolescence. However, findings indicated that maternal warmth negatively predicted generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) criterion counts among those with low SES in grade 12, and positively predicted GAD and depressive disorder criterion counts among those with moderate-to-high SES in grade 12 and grade 6, respectively. These results are understood within a larger discussion of risk factors associated with low SES as well as by examining the directionality of effects. It is strongly recommended that future researchers measure anxiety and depression longitudinally across the early developmental lifespan alongside observed parental warmth to disentangle the complex relationship between these constructs. The utmost goal is to identify a profile of risk that includes both early internalizing problems and parenting factors in order to positively benefit healthy outcomes among children and families. This study contributes towards a better understanding of these relationships, and towards the appropriate design of interventions to prevent the onset of anxiety, depression, and associated deleterious outcomes among children and youth.

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

A long-term look at "early starters" : Predicting adult psychosocial outcomes from childhood conduct problem trajectories

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-08-14
Abstract: 

Current evidence suggests that multiple pathways of “early-starting” conduct problems exist, including persisting and declining trajectories. Since little is known about the early-onset-declining pathway, this study examined the long-term outcomes of different childhood conduct problem trajectories in a disproportionately high-risk sample (n = 754). Parents reported on children’s conduct problems at six time points (kindergarten to grade 7). At age 25, a broad range of psychosocial outcomes was assessed. Four childhood conduct problem trajectories were identified: low-decreasing (LD), moderate-decreasing (MD), high-stable (HS), and extremely-high-increasing (EHI). The EHI and HS groups displayed the poorest psychosocial functioning at age 25, whereas the LD group exhibited the most positive adjustment. Although individuals in the MD group displayed relatively positive adjustment on some outcomes, they displayed more psychopathology, more risky sexual behaviour, and lower well-being in adulthood than the LD group. These findings suggest that all early starters are at risk for later maladjustment.

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

Proximal factors associated with non-suicidal self-injury in daily life

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-07-11
Abstract: 

The primary objective of this research was to examine factors that predict urges for non- suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and the transition from urges to NSSI behaviour. Specifically, I examined the types of stressful events, negative emotions, and cognitive appraisals that increase or decrease the likelihood of NSSI urges and behaviours. Participants who reported NSSI at least twice in the last month (N = 55) completed online daily diaries to report on their experiences, emotions, and thoughts over 14 days. Interpersonal stressors were more strongly associated with NSSI urges than were non-interpersonal stressors. Contrary to hypotheses, low and high-arousal negative emotions did not significantly differ in their association with NSSI urges and behaviours. Maladaptive cognitive patterns such as rumination, catastrophizing, and self-blame were all positively associated with NSSI urges, and rumination and catastrophizing were also positively associated with NSSI behaviours. Conversely, distress tolerance and emotion- regulation self-efficacy were negatively associated with NSSI urges and behaviours. Furthermore, emotion regulation self-efficacy was the only factor significantly associated with lower likelihood of NSSI behaviours on days when NSSI urges were present. These findings suggest the importance of specific contextual, emotional, and cognitive factors in future research aiming to better understand NSSI risk and suggests particular targets for consideration in efforts to refine and improve treatment.

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