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

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A pilot investigation of the utility of case formulation and scenario planning in structured professional judgment using the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide – Version 3 (SARA-V3)

Date created: 
2021-08-20
Abstract: 

Although case formulation and scenario planning are elements included in many structured professional judgment (SPJ) decision support aids, the utility of these steps in the development of risk management plans have been understudied. This pilot study examined whether the inclusion of case formulation and scenarios in risk assessment reports prepared according to the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide – Version 3 (SARA-V3) helped evaluators provide risk management recommendations and Conclusory Opinions that were in greater agreement with gold standard ratings. Mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, and victim service workers (N = 106) involved in the assessment and management of intimate partner violence cases were randomly assigned one of ten intimate partner violence case summaries and to one of two conditions: (1) a risk assessment report including a description of the present and relevant risk factors, and (2) a risk assessment report including a description of the present and relevant risk factors, a case formulation, and scenarios of future violence. Evaluators were asked to make risk management decisions about the case they reviewed and indicate how confident they felt about their risk management judgments. Results showed minimal differences between evaluators in the two study conditions. Directions for future research on case formulation, scenario planning, and risk management are discussed, with an emphasis on the need for more qualitative research on the process of violence risk assessment and management.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Stephen D. Hart
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Childhood abuse history among adolescent mothers and their children’s adjustment in elementary school: Examining indirect effects

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-09-16
Abstract: 

Existing research is limited regarding intergenerational effects of adolescent mothers’ abuse histories on their children and the pathways by which transmission of risk occurs. The current study examined whether a history of childhood abuse in adolescent mothers is related to offspring adjustment in elementary school. The investigation included a community sample of 115 adolescent mother-child dyads recruited to be part of a longitudinal evaluation of parenting. Mothers reported their abuse history; attachment security was measured using the Strange Situation; child externalizing behaviour was reported by mothers when the children were age 4.5; child adjustment was reported by teachers; academic achievement was assessed using standardized assessments when the children were in grade 3. Path analyses were conducted to: (a) evaluate the direct effects between maternal history of abuse and child adjustment in elementary school; and (b) evaluate the indirect effects of attachment security and child preschool externalizing behaviour on child adjustment. Maternal childhood abuse predicted child internalizing problems and social competence in Grade 3. Mother-infant attachment mediated the relationship between maternal childhood abuse and child externalizing problems as well as social competence. Implications for interventions supporting parents with trauma histories and their children are highlighted.

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

Impact of individual-level characteristics on perceptions of problematic sexual encounters

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-07-19
Abstract: 

Rates of sexual assault remain high across university settings despite increased efforts to combat this phenomenon. This project fills a gap in the existing literature by examining how situation-specific variables (i.e. alcohol consumption by and degree of familiarity between individuals) and individual-level factors (i.e., attitudes regarding sexual instrumentality and permissiveness, rape myths, trait token resistance, history of sexual victimization and sexual perpetration) relate to ongoing third-party perceptions of a sexual scenario. The current study used a vignette methodology to portray the dynamic nature of a sexual interaction between a man and a woman that began innocently but escalated to problematic behavior by the man and finally to sexual assault. At eight points in the interaction, a sample of university students (n = 350) reported their perceptions of comfort, safety, consent, and reportability of scenario. They further indicated the extent to which the scenario represented instances of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and state-based female token resistance. As the vignette’s sexual interaction became increasingly problematic, participants reported declining perceptions of comfort, safety, and state-based female token resistance, and they were more likely to characterize the interaction as lacking consent, being worthy of reporting, and involving sexual harassment and sexual assault. An analysis of situational variables within the vignette revealed no significant associations between vignette perceptions and alcohol consumption by or degree of familiarity between characters. For individual-level factors, lower rape myth acceptance was associated with identifying the interaction as lacking consent, being worthy of reporting, and as both sexual harassment and sexual assault. Trait token resistance was also related to perceptions of comfort, safety, and state-based female token resistance. These findings add to the growing literature on university sexual assault by demonstrating that third-party perceptions of sexually problematic vignettes manifest differentially among participants based on individual-level factors but not situational variables.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Stephen D. Hart
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Neural mechanisms of visual singleton detection: Evidence from human electrophysiology

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-01-29
Abstract: 

It is sometimes necessary to search for visual objects of potential interest that are underspecified (e.g., any illegal item in a suitcase). The search for such an object can be accomplished easily if it possesses a unique feature that makes it stand out from its surrounding. In this case, observers can simply search for the most salient item in the environment (singleton detection). Surprisingly, the neuro-cognitive processes involved in singleton detection are still poorly understood. The overarching aims of this thesis were to reveal neuro-cognitive processes involved in singleton detection using event-related potentials (ERPs) and to address specific questions about the role of attention in singleton-detection tasks. Experiment 1 reexamined the claim that attentional processes associated with an ERP component called the N2pc are absent in singleton detection. The results revealed several ERP components, including the N2pc and a newly discovered component that tracked the time course of singleton detection (the singleton detection positivity; SDP). It was concluded that singleton detection involves some of the same attentional processes as those required for feature-based search. Experiment 2 employed a go/no-go variant of the singleton-detection task to determine whether the attentional processes observed in singleton detection are triggered automatically, as some researchers believe. ERP indices of singleton detection (SDP) and attentional selection (N2pc) were markedly reduced or absent on no-go trials, demonstrating that rapid assessment of task relevancy can prevent salience-driven capture of attention in the singleton-detection task.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
John McDonald
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

The role of mindfulness and emotion regulation in dialectical behavioural therapy for borderline personality disorder

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-10-15
Abstract: 

Despite substantial research demonstrating its effectiveness in the treatment of borderline personality disorder (BPD), few studies have investigated mechanisms of change for dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Improvements in mindfulness and emotion regulation have been highlighted as potential mechanisms. This study examined the time course of, and associations between, mindfulness, emotion regulation and BPD symptoms during DBT. Participants were 240 self-harming adults with BPD who were randomly assigned to receive 6- or 12-months of DBT. Results from changepoint analysis indicated that changes in emotion regulation preceded changes in mindfulness. Contrary to hypotheses, cross-lagged analyses did not indicate mediational effects of mindfulness or emotion regulation on the association of either variable with change in BPD symptoms. Supplemental analyses, however, suggested that changes in emotion regulation mediated the inverse association of changes in mindfulness with changes in BPD symptoms. Findings highlight patterns of change in proposed mechanisms of change in DBT.

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

Augmenting cognitive-behavioral therapy with parent management training to reduce coercive and disruptive behavior in pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-04-16
Abstract: 

Coercive and disruptive behaviors are common among youth with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and are thought to contribute to impairment and interfere with the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Parent management training (PMT) is the most empirically supported intervention for disruptive behavior problems in youth; however, no group-based PMT intervention has been adapted to address OCD-related disruptive behaviors. This study investigated the efficacy of a novel, group-based adjunctive PMT intervention among a non-randomized sample of youth receiving family-based group CBT for pediatric OCD. Linear mixed models were used to estimate treatment effects across several OCD-related and parenting outcomes at post-treatment and 1-month follow-up. Treatment response for 37 families who received the augmented program (CBT+PMT; Mage = 13.90) was compared to that of 80 families who previously received only CBT (CBT-Only; Mage = 13.93) using propensity scores and inverse probability of treatment weighting. Multiple regression models were conducted using pre-treatment characteristics and quality of participation to predict post-treatment outcomes for CBT+PMT. Families who received CBT+PMT showed significant improvements in all OCD-related outcomes and parents’ tolerance of their children’s distress at post-treatment and follow-up. Treatment response on OCD-related outcomes did not significantly differ between groups. Youths’ higher age significantly predicted greater symptom severity at post-treatment, and more severe symptoms at pre-treatment significantly predicted lower parental involvement in youth’s lives at post-treatment. Results suggest that CBT+PMT is an effective treatment for pediatric OCD across multiple indicators; however, CBT+PMT may not provide incremental benefits beyond CBT-Only, at least as presently delivered/examined. Future research is needed to determine the most effective and feasible ways to incorporate key PMT components into CBT-based interventions.

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

On quantitative issues pertaining to the detection of epistatic genetic architectures

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-01-25
Abstract: 

Converging empirical evidence portrays epistasis (i.e., gene-gene interaction) as a ubiquitous property of genetic architectures and protagonist in complex trait variability. While researchers employ sophisticated technologies to detect epistasis, the scarcity of robust instances of detection in human populations is striking. To evaluate the empirical issues pertaining to epistatic detection, we analytically characterize the statistical detection problem and elucidate two candidate explanations. The first examines whether population-level manifestations of epistasis arising in nature are small; consequently, for sample-sizes employed in research, the power delivered by detectors may be disadvantageously small. The second considers whether gene-environmental association generates bias in estimates of genotypic values diminishing the power of detection. By simulation study, we adjudicate the merits of both explanations and the power to detect epistasis under four digenic architectures. In agreement with both explanations, our findings implicate small epistatic effect-sizes and gene-environmental association as mechanisms that obscure the detection of epistasis.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Michael Maraun
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

School connectedness & attachment: Predicted and moderated relationships with substance use, depression, and suicidality among teens at-risk

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-12-14
Abstract: 

Research has demonstrated that parent-adolescent attachment security and school connectedness are protective factors that buffer teens from risk for substance use, depression, and suicidality. However, past research has examined these factors independently, and little is known about how secure attachment and school connectedness work in conjunction to reduce adolescent risk. The present study examined the moderating role of school connectedness on the relationship between parent-adolescent attachment security and substance use, depression, and suicidality among at-risk adolescents drawn from a clinical sample (N = 480; 60.5% female; Mage = 14.86). Findings indicated that for both females and males with a secure attachment, school connectedness made a positive impact to reduce symptoms of depression and suicidality, respectively. Similarly, for males with attachment avoidance, school connectedness weakened the impact of attachment avoidance on suicidality. However, for females with attachment anxiety, school connectedness was unable to reduce symptoms of depression.

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

Incident traumatic brain injury in precariously housed persons

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-11-04
Abstract: 

Persons living in precarious housing face numerous mental and physical health risks, including disproportionally higher incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) compared with the general population. A number of challenges hamper the existent literature on incident TBI in this population, potentially attenuating estimates of TBI occurrence. In precariously housed persons, this study (1) captured TBI events in a prospective design that included participant education regarding injury sequelae and the use of a comprehensive and validated screening tool deployed repeatedly and proximate (i.e., monthly) to incident TBI, (2) characterized the types of TBI events that occurred through detailed assessment of injury details (i.e., count, severity, mechanism, acute intoxication), with test-retest reliability analyses on self-reported injury characteristics, and (3) identified specific risk factors for incident TBI, amongst broad predictor categories (i.e., substance dependence, psychiatric illness, prior brain injury, psychological functioning), through detailed pre-injury assessment, in order to inform targeted assessment and prevention strategies. Three hundred and twenty six participants were recruited from single-room occupancy hotels and screened monthly for incident TBI. Observed and estimated rates of TBI were obtained, and logistic and poisson regression identified pre-injury risk factors for TBI occurrence, severity, and count. Across TBI definitions and approaches to missing data, incidence proportion ranged from 18.7 to 50.7 percent, event proportion ranged from 27.9 to 91.1 percent, incidence rate ranged from 30,086 to 50,674 per 100,000 person-years, and event rate ranged from 44,882 to 91,104 per 100,000 person-years. Education, role functioning, schizophrenia spectrum disorder, opioid dependence, lifetime number of TBI, and lifetime history of TBI were significant predictors of TBI occurrence. This study makes four important contributions: (1) screening for brain injury at repeated proximal assessments (i.e., monthly) obtains a considerably higher self-reported rate of TBI in precariously housed persons, (2) this multimorbid population suffers from remarkably high rates of self-reported brain injury, and (3) several key and specific risk factors for TBI occurrence and (4) TBI severity were identified. Harm reduction strategies targeting those most vulnerable are imperative to improve functioning and prevent further injury and associated consequences.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Allen Thornton
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

The role of psychological distress and sport participation on help-seeking among university student athletes

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-11-23
Abstract: 

Student athletes are considered less likely to seek help than non-athlete students despite comparable rates of mental health difficulties. However, recent findings suggest certain variables may influence these differences. The present study used a secondary analysis of a national sample of university students to explore the role of psychological distress on help-seeking among student athletes and non-athlete students. Results indicate student athletes are less likely to consider help-seeking than non-athlete students. However, the association of psychological distress and help-seeking intention did not differ across level of sport participation. Unique predictors among student athletes indicate that athletes who are in fourth year and above, had previously sought help, or were experiencing greater psychological well-being demonstrated increased help-seeking intention. Psychological distress was associated with reduced intention. This study expands upon the growing body of student athlete help-seeking research and reinforces the importance of investigating strategies to better support this unique population.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
David Cox
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.