Filter Dissertations and Theses By:
REFLECTIVE FUNCTIONING CAPACITY IN MOTHERS OF BOYS WITH ADHD, LDS AND ASSOCIATED BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS
Anne-Britt Ekert Rothstein
Year of Dissertation:
The present study investigated the experience of mothers who have children with ADHD, learning disabilities and behavior problems. Data were collected from 18 mothers of 7 to 9 year old boys with ADHD, and/or learning disabilities and behavior problems using the Parent Development Interview, (PDI-R); (Slade, Aber, Berger, Bresgi, & Kaplan, 2003). The PDI is a semi-structured interview, which asks parents to describe themselves and their children and to talk about their child's and their own emotional experiences, thoughts and feelings at times when things between parent and child go well and when they do not go smoothly. A large amount of psychologically rich data was gathered on the mothers' experience, which was qualitatively analyzed with the aim to add to our knowledge of the experience of mothers raising boys with ADHD, LDs and associated behavior problems. In addition, the narratives of the PDI were scored for reflective functioning ("RF") capacity (Fonagy, Steele, Moran, Steele & Higgitt, 1991; Fonagy, Steele, Steele, Leigh, Kennedy, Mattoon & Target, 1995). RF capacity describes a parent's ability to reflect on her own and her child's state of mind; much research to date suggests that there are many benefits to a mother having good mentalizing capacity, for her child and for her relationship with her child. v In the qualitative portion of the analysis of the interview, nine primary themes emerged relating to the mother's parenting experience: 1) the child's experiencing difficulties; 2) frustration and anger; 3) the mothers experiencing difficulties; 4) guilt; 5) loss; 6) worry; 7) overcoming problems; 8) learning from experience; 9) wish for the child to reach his potential. These themes are consistent with prior research, and the present study expands our knowledge of a mother's parenting experience. The other aim of the study was to investigate the mothers' RF capacity and whether it varied dependent on the content of the various subsections of the interview. A possible relationship between RF capacity and mothers' reports of a more positive and rewarding parenting experience was considered. However, the study's findings suggest that in the current sample RF capacity did not mediate a mother's report of a more positive parenting experience. In addition, the study explored a mother's ability to mentalize while talking specifically about her affective experience of parenting compared to her RF capacity overall as measured with the PDI. The study findings suggest that only the mothers with the highest RF scores in the sample (low average) evidenced a variation in their RF functioning in this regard. Results showed that it was harder for those mothers with the higher sample scores to reflect specifically on the affective experience compared to the rest of the interview questions. Additionally this research explored a mother's ability to reflect when responding to questions that directly asked about the child's learning and behavior challenges. The study findings suggest that mothers had a more difficult time, as reflected in lower RF scores, when talking about their experiences raising a learning disabled child as well as the effect their children's learning and behavior issues had on their relationship. vi Results showed that the overall RF scores of the study sample were significantly lower compared to other nonclinical samples. The study's investigation of a relationship which may exist between parenting a child with ADHD/LDs and associated behavior problems and a mother's RF capacity suggests that the emotional and psychological strains of mothering a child with these issues may lead to certain coping mechanisms and defenses that may significantly decrease a mother's ability to mentalize. If future studies confirm lower levels of mentalizing functioning in the population under study, this has far-reaching implications for clinical practice. The current study highlights the importance of working with this population therapeutically to increase its RF capacity, as it links parenting stress in this population with RF capacity, as well as coping mechanisms and defensive activity.
MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS, SOCIAL EXCLUSION, AND NEUROBIOLOGICAL PROCESSES IN BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER: A MULTI-LEVEL STUDY
Year of Dissertation:
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is an ongoing public health crisis. Poor developmental quality of differentiation-relatedness of object representations and attachment insecurity have been clinically and empirically demonstrated as core patterns of intrapsychic and interpersonal dysfunction in this particular form of personality pathology. Differentiation-relatedness (D-R), which involves a complementary relationship between intrapsychic autonomy and interpersonal relatedness, has been shown to be a significant aspect of internal psychic experience that relates directly to external relationship patterns, including characteristic response to interpersonal interactions and has been a specific target for treatment of BPD. Specifically, individuals with BPD have shown lower developmental quality of differentiation-relatedness than non-clinical controls. Similarly, attachment insecurity, stemming from repetitive, conflicted exchanges with caregivers beginning from early development, is a hallmark of borderline personality. Although differentiation-relatedness and attachment organization have been extensively studied in this clinical population, few studies have investigated the relationship between such measures of historically relevant intrapsychic functioning, behavioral and neural responses to social interaction in the here and now. Through narrative responses to a clinical interview, self-reports and a measure of social cognition during fMRI that operationalize borderline pathology in distinct ways, this study investigated differences between individuals diagnosed with BPD and non-clinical controls, as well as the relationship among measures of developmental quality of differentiation-relatedness of object representations, attachment style, and behavioral and neural response patterns in a laboratory-based design. Results: Independent samples t-tests showed significant differences between borderline patients and controls for D-R mean, father, and self scores, attachment anxiety and avoidance, and anger response patterns to experiences of social exclusion. Simple linear regression analyses demonstrated that D-R mean, father, and self scores also significantly predicted anger response in Cyberball. Non-significant positive trends for attachment anxiety, scored from the self-report Experience in Close Relationships (ECR) measure, predicting rejection and anger were also evident; however the ECR was less sensitive at predicting rejection and anger in response to social exclusion than D-R scores. The D-R mean score also modulated neural activity associated with social inclusion in Cyberball in the left inferior frontal cortex. Thus, this study provides further evidence of the multidimensional nature of borderline personality disorder and the intricate complexity of the relationship among different levels of the pathology (i.e., intrapsychic, attachment, behavioral, and neural). These results, in conjunction with further studies on the relationship among these components, have the potential to offer crucial insights for the treatment of this disorder.
On the propagation of musicality: Taking cues from sexual selection
Year of Dissertation:
There is a shortage of empirical literature on the evolutionary functions of music. An overview of the evolutionary theories of music indicates that direct natural, indirect natural, and by-product explanations for the propagation of musicality are unlikely. Research demonstrates that music ability fulfills many of the criteria for a sexually selected adaptation suggesting that contemporary entailments of music may be sexually selected for. However, there has been no empirical investigation of the sexual selection theory of music. This study aimed to: (1) investigate if music is sexually selected for; (2) examine the influence of variables known to affect mating on musical production; and (3) investigate the underlying cognitive constructs of musical production. Using a sample of 92 undergraduate students, aged 18 to 30, several planned tasks examined the effects of sexual and romantic arousal on the production, aptitude, and subjective rating of music. Using a between subjects design, participants read a neutral, short-term mating, or long-term mating vignette before completing tasks assessing musical aptitude, intelligence, divergent thinking, and executive functions. Results indicated that being primed for long term mating increased displays of musicality in both sexes, but when participants were primed to think about short-term mating, only male participants showed increased ratings for musical production. These findings align with the view that displays of music in both sexes may be associated with sexual selection, qualified by amount of parental investment. Results also revealed that musical production was not affected by variables known to affect mating such as mood, ovulation status, current mating situation, caffeine intake, or sex of the raters but musical production was affected by current mating situation and sex of the rater. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed. Finally, results revealed no meaningful association between mental flexibility (as measured on tasks of divergent thinking, executive functioning, and IQ) and musical production suggesting that musical production may not be showcasing a fitness for the `g' factor. Taken together these results provide empirical support for Miller's hypothesis that music is, or has recently been a sexually selected adaptation.
From Perceptual Symbols to Abstraction and Back Again: The Bitter Truth about Morality
Year of Dissertation:
The representation and processing of abstract concepts is a poorly understood and controversial area of research in the cognitive sciences. Some traditional and recent approaches argue that abstract concepts are represented in symbolic, amodal channels that are proposed to be distinct from the brain's perceptual centers (Burgess & Lund, 1997; Paivio, 1986, 1991; Pylyshyn, 1973; Schwanenflugel & Stowe, 1989). On the other hand, research in grounded and embodied cognition has shown that sensoriperceptual states can influence cognitive processing in numerous ways (Barsalou, 1999, 2008, 2010), even for abstract concepts like morality (e.g., Schnall, Haidt, Clore, & Jordan, 2008). The present research investigated a prototypical abstract concept (morality) and explored the extent to which perceptual information influences the processing of moral judgments. Although various studies have linked physical disgust to moral disgust, surprisingly little research has investigated morality in conjunction with taste. Across three experiments, it was found that gustatory disgust is indeed linked to moral disgust, and this effect is more pronounced in political conservatives than political liberals. Experiment 1 revealed that bitter tastes elicited significantly harsher moral judgments than sweet or control (i.e., water) tastes. Experiment 2 reversed the directionality of this effect and showed that reading about moral transgressions, virtuous, or control events instantiated gustatory disgust, delight, or neutral taste perceptions, respectively. Experiment 3 replicated the basic methodology of the first experiment (but using a within-subjects design) and significantly reduced the effect by asking participants to suppress their perceptual and emotional experiences. Taken together, these taste perception experiments provide additional support for the idea that moral processing draws from perceptual and embodied information, specifically embodied disgust. A new theory is proposed (Distributed Embodied Network Theory) for explaining how perceptual symbols might ground abstract conceptual representations. According to this view, two classes of perceptual information (sensorimotor and affective) provide the foundation for abstract representations and can also be used to predict the abstractness and concreteness of diverse conceptual representations.
GAY MEN'S AND THEIR RELIGIOUS RELATIVES' NEGOTIATION OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION, RELIGION, FAMILY VALUES, AND HOMOPHOBIA
Year of Dissertation:
Building upon recent work studying how people use cultural tools and strategies to mediate conflicts (Daiute, 2010; Etengoff & Daiute, Forthcoming; Vygotsky 1934/1978), this dissertation explores systematically how gay men, their religious relatives, and therapists negotiate conflicts around religious, sexual, and familial issues. In addition, the dissertation studies how gay men and their allies use and modify religious and secular objects and systems, such as biblical text and therapy, to address the often conflicting demands of sexuality and religion. This dissertation analyzes the conflicts and negotiational efforts that emerge within intrapersonal, interpersonal, metaphysical and intersystem contexts for gay men and their religious families. Therefore, the principal research questions guiding this study are: How is the process of sexual orientation and sexual orientation disclosure negotiated within a religious, familial, and societal system?; What are the salient conflicts that emerge in religious families of gay men who have recently disclosed their sexual orientation?; How does one's own or a relatives' sexual orientation mediate religious orientation and activities such as bible study?; What religious and secular objects and activities do actors across the activity-meaning system use to negotiate conflicts? In contrast to much scholarship on gay men from religious backgrounds that focuses only on the negative impacts of institutionalized homophobia, this work focuses on how inter-group and inter-personal relations can be improved for gay men and their religious family allies. Due to the unique socio-religious context of the participants in this study, this dissertation employs an applied activity-meaning system framework to explore how individuals and their socio-religious contexts are reciprocal agents of construction and human development. Therefore, the theoretical bases of this dissertation are Vygotsky's (1934/1978) cultural historical activity theory and relational complexity theory (Daiute, 2012). In addition, mediational strategies in this study are defined within the relationally complex framework of humanization (Bell & Khoury, 2011). These developmental theories are particularly relevant to gay men and their religious families due to their multifaceted interactions within relational, familial, religious and social contexts. Fifty participants comprised of gay men (n=23), their key religious family member (n=15), and clinicians (n=12) were sampled to give voice to the multiple social relationships of gay men brought up in very religious Jewish and Christian families. All participants completed semi-structured interviews and gay men and their family allies were also asked to write a letter to a religious figure. Multiple forms of narrative construction were used to expand the unit of analysis to include the study of how families make-meaning of the interactions between their sociocultural and sociorelational experiences. In addition, the letter writing task was designed to empower participants to engage the power-laden contexts of religion and sexuality as participant-activists as opposed to only participant-observers. Narrative analyses began with the following four process steps: (a) identification of conflict(s) and difficulties present within narrative, (b) identification of family and individual negotiation efforts, (c) Identification of cultural tool use such as religious texts, (d) characterization of the mediational strategies. This coding system was inductively derived from the narratives and informed by cultural historical activity theory. Analyses of participants' relational uses of religious and popular objects support the argument that development is a meaning-making process occurring within sociocultural and historical contexts. Furthermore, results indicate that participants' use of religious and popular objects was often a goal directed and aimed at affecting sociorelational and sociocultural change within their activity system. In addition, findings indicate that gay men's and their religious family allies' awareness of the sociocultural contexts of each other's lived experience is an important component in the successful negotiation of post-disclosure conflicts within religious and familial contexts. Moreover, analyses suggest that both gay men and their religious family allies successfully negotiated the conflicts between their family system, religious values, and social stigma experiences by focusing on humanization strategies such as recognizing the shared human experience and the diversity of the gay community. This investigation also illustrates that exploratory semi-structured interviews engaging participants in such acts of humanization can potentially yield substantial improvement in family dynamics. While prior research indicates that sexual minorities can overcome the negative romantic effects of social stigma by engaging in meaning-making activities (Frost 2011), the present results suggest that this meaning-making intervention paradigm can be expanded to include other familial relationships and systems as well.
Inter-Religious Relationships and Anxiety in the Regulation of Automatic Inter-Religious Prejudice
Year of Dissertation:
Shared reality theory predicts and evidence suggests that inter-religious relationships are motivated to maintain or regulate interpersonal interactions with others. However, this motivation has been given little attention within the automatic attitude literature. This research is centered on the idea that automatic prejudice is moderated by two fundamental themes, shared reality and anxiety. These themes are reviewed to determine the degree to which participants socially tune to ingroup versus outgroup religious experimenters. In Experiment 1, automatic inter-religious attitudes toward Christian and Jewish experimenters were assessed via a subliminal prime procedure. Religious orientation (extrinsic, intrinsic) and regulation of inter-religious relationships were also investigated. Paternal shared reality but not maternal shared reality moderated the effect of experimenter religion on automatic inter-religious attitudes. This finding was also similar among highly devoted Christian participants. In addition to measuring implicit inter-religious prejudice, Experiment 2 measured explicit measures of affect, intergroup anxiety and blood pressure reactivity in addition to implicit prejudice. Christian participants negative affect, systolic blood pressure, and pulse decreased as a result of interacting with Christian and Jewish experimenters. Religious experimenters did not significantly affect Christian and Jewish participants automatic inter-religious attitudes but only components of intergroup anxiety (belief similarity and intergroup interactions) were context dependent. The effects were found not to be moderated by level of devotion or parental shared reality. This research suggests inter-religious relationships among fathers but not mothers affect inter-religious prejudice and these effects are further attributable to anxiety and blood pressure for Christians but not Jews.
Functional Differentiation Between the Left and Right Hemisphere for a Sub-Region of Wernicke's Area is Revealed with fMRI-Guided, Single-Pulse TMS.
Year of Dissertation:
During the past two decades, studies of neural organization have been bolstered by the addition of functional and structural brain-imaging techniques capable of localizing and correlating brain activity to cognitive functions. With potential clinical applications abound, localizing language-related activity prior to neurosurgery is an interest shared by both neuroscientists and neuroradiologists who are interested in protecting essential language regions in neurosurgery candidates. Since imaging is correlative, however, it does not distinguish essential brain activity from supporting and associated activity and therefore cannot be used independently to determine hemispheric language dominance. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), on the other hand, is a non-invasive technique that stimulates targeted brain regions directly and can therefore inform causative structure/function relationships. The goal of this study is to develop non-invasive techniques that definitively identify hemispheric language dominance. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was used to locate language-related regions in 36 right-handed participants. In most participants, there were two clusters of activation within classic Wernicke's territory. We termed these dorsal and ventral Wernicke's areas. On a separate day, fourteen of the thirty-six participants returned to participate in a single-pulse TMS experiment which targeted dorsal and ventral Wernicke's areas and their right-sided homologues. Picture naming latency was decreased following TMS of left-sided dorsal and ventral Wernicke's areas as well as right-sided ventral Wernicke's homologue. No effect was observed following TMS of dorsal Wernicke's homologue. These results highlight the advantages of using cross-modal imaging techniques by providing direct evidence in support of modern theories of neural language organization that propose a bilateral sub-region of Wernicke's area involved in phonological processing, and a unilateral left-sided component involved in integration and relay of semantic information to other cortical regions.
Subgroup Differences and Predictive Ability of Psychometric and Neuropsychological Intelligence Measures
Year of Dissertation:
Researchers recognize that the current models of intelligence are insufficient at making causal connections between the intelligence measure and intelligent behavior. Different approaches to intelligence are under investigation to incorporate within current models of intelligence and include psychometric, neuropsychological, and cultural components. Currently there is a lack of research that incorporates both psychometric and neuropsychological intelligence measures in a predictive model of performance. The purpose of the current study is three-fold. The first objective is to test the predictive relationships of neuropsychological and psychometric intelligence batteries, an alternative psychometric intelligence assessment, and a personality measure in relationship to academic performance. The second objective is to examine racioethnic and gender subgroup mean differences on all predictors of performance. Subgroup mean differences, which can lead to adverse impact, have been found on a variety of verbal and nonverbal intelligence assessments (Hough, Oswald, & Ployhart, 2001). Research has demonstrated that performance differences are often moderated by the type of measure used which also raises concerns about the construct validity of psychometric intelligence assessments. The third objective of the research is to examine the construct validity of neuropsychological intelligence, traditional psychometric intelligence, and alternative psychometric intelligence. There is little empirical evidence which demonstrates that differences in cognitive functioning in the brain result in differences in scores on psychometric assessments. That is, there are few links (i.e., construct validity evidence) connecting cognitive functioning to intelligent performance on psychometric assessments. Hypotheses pertaining to prediction of different measures, subgroup mean differences, and statistical relationships among the intelligence measures were tested. The results indicate that the neuropsychological intelligence battery was the only significant predictor of academic performance. All intelligence measures exhibited subgroup mean differences, however they were smaller compared to what is typically reported in the literature. The Black/African American mean score on the neuropsychological battery was one-third of a standard deviation below the White/Caucasian mean score, and Hispanics demonstrated minimal mean score differences compared to White/Caucasians. Additionally, construct validity evidence emerged for the intelligence measures. A discussion of the findings including their implications is included.
HELD AND DROPPED: A STUDY OF METAPHOR AND SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE IN A PSYCHOANALYTIC TREATMENT
Year of Dissertation:
This study explores particular patterns of change that might unfold over the course of an intensive psychoanalytic treatment by mapping the forms of change that might take place in terms of a patient's subjective experience and the meaning that the patient attributes to it as reflected in the effort to express that experience in figurative language (i.e., metaphors). The data set was treatment session transcripts provided by P. A. Dewald over a period of 2 years and is partitioned by Dewald into three sequential phases. Figurative language in general and metaphor in particular consists of essential forms of representation of subjective experience, as well as the transmitter of subjective experience in which clear markers of change in self-representation may be found. These markers are located and made visible within the patterns of a patient's metaphors involving the dimensions of valence, intensity, and agency. Metaphor permits access to two important dimensions of human affective experience with regard to feeling states: intensity and valence. Briefly, the dimension of valence asks, "What is the affective charge--positive or negative?" The dimension of intensity asks, "How strongly felt is the expressed emotion--high or low?" Examining metaphors for connotative meaning through use of Osgood's semantic differential scale, the dimension of agency was added in this study. This third dimension of affective experience, a primary ego function, puts emotions in the context of relationship dynamics (doer and done to). Agency asks, "Who is doing unto whom? Is the speaker active or passive?" Also, the dimension of meaning was added, asking, "Is this expression literal or figurative"? Analysis across all four dimensions showed coherent patterns that revealed changes throughout the course of treatment. Particularly notable was the marked shift across all dimensions at the midpoint, corresponding to Dewald's middle phase of treatment and his theoretical notions of the significance of a transference neurosis. A particularly notable finding was that all shifts in subjective experience, even shifts that that could be seen as evidence of dysregulation, were achieved without loss of the capacity to symbolize, as evidenced by the consistently high figurativity scores along the meaning dimension. There was maintenance of high figurativity even under the press of sharp increases in negativity and intensity, which, from a psychodynamic perspective, could be suggestive of increased ego strength. These findings underscore the usefulness of metaphor as a target of clinical listening.
Assessing the Effects of Behavioral Skills Training on Adult Teaching Responses, Learner Acquisition, and Learner Disruptive Behavior Across Responses and Instructional Skill Sets
Year of Dissertation:
Behavioral Skills Training (BST) is a teaching package consisting of instructions, feedback, modeling, and rehearsal that has been effective for training staff to provide intervention to people with developmental disabilities. The purpose of the current study was to assess: (a) whether prior studies demonstrating the effectiveness of BST could be systematically replicated in a variety of teaching procedures, (b) whether the instructional skills that staff acquired during training on one response generalized to a variety of instructional programs, (c) whether positive changes in staff performance corresponded to positive behavior change in learners and (d) whether positive changes in learner behavior generalized to novel programs. Results systematically replicated and extended prior studies by demonstrating that BST resulted in positive behavior change across staff, learners, instructional programs, and various types of teaching skills. Further, for all types of instructional procedures staff displayed generalization of teaching skills to novel responses and learners displayed increases in correct responding, indicating that BST is an effective and efficient intervention procedure.