Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Stigma, Intimacy, and Well-Being: A Personality and Social Structures Approach

    Author:
    David Frost
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Suzanne Ouellette
    Abstract:

    There is widespread belief that intimacy and romantic interpersonal relationships are not as meaningful for individuals in or pursuing same-sex relationships as they are for heterosexual individuals. These unfounded stereotypes and assumptions create social stressors in the form of macrosocial and interpersonal stigmatization in lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals' lives. Thus far, social scientists have established general negative associations between experiences of stigmatization and relationship quality among LGB individuals. However, little is known about the processes through which stigma becomes meaningful in the lives of LGB individuals and its resulting impact on their experiences of intimacy and psychological well-being. This dissertation addressed two primary aims: (a) to systematically investigate similarities and differences in LGB and heterosexual individuals' meanings and experiences of intimacy; and (b) to understand the mechanisms that link stigma-related processes to LGB individuals' lived experiences of intimacy and the resulting implications for their relational and psychological well-being. Two mixed-method studies using purposive national online samples addressed these aims. The results of both studies demonstrated that intimacy was experienced as equally meaningful among LGB and heterosexual individuals; however, LGB individuals experienced significantly more adversity in the form of stigma-related processes associated with intimacy compared to heterosexuals. Both studies showed that stigma-related processes were negatively associated with LGBs' experiences of intimacy, relationship quality, and psychological well-being. These associations were partially mediated by the meaningfulness LGBs attributed to their pursuits and experiences of intimacy. Study 2 further demonstrated that individuals in same-sex couples make meaning of their experiences of stigma and intimacy via multiple narrative strategies. Some of these strategies reinforced the negative impact of stigmatization on intimacy, while others allowed individuals to cope with, resist, and overcome stigma-related processes. These findings bolster existing research on stigma and intimacy among LGB individuals. They also challenge researchers to broaden their approaches to address the multiple pathways and mechanisms through which stigma impacts the lives of marginalized individuals. Furthermore, this dissertation demonstrates the utility of a personality and social structures approach to the study of stigma, thereby highlighting important implications for intervention and policy reform.

  • Therapists' Use of their Visual Images in Therapy

    Author:
    DAFNA FUCHS
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Elliot Jurist
    Abstract:

    Therapists frequently experience a spontaneous appearance of a picture or sequence of pictures in their minds, while listening to their patients; in this research project I refer to these experiences as Therapists' Visual Images. The roles that these visual images play in the process of therapy may vary between different therapists, patients, and contexts. The goal of this study is to expand the theoretical understanding of this phenomenon that is common among therapists, but had not yet been studied using a controlled research. This study will examine the scope of the use of visual images that therapists experience during sessions and the processes that lead to these various uses of the image. 15 therapists were interviewed about their experience of having spontaneous visual images in sessions. They were asked about their thoughts and feelings about the experience as well as their use of their images in sessions. The data was coded and distributed to four domains representing the process of the appearance of the image: 1. Before the Image; 2. The Image; 3. After the image; and, 4. Therapists' Theories of the Functions of Visual Images. In further analysis of the results, several processes of visual images were found, resulting in different types of images: Associative Images, Symbolic Images, and Defensive Images. These processes were found to be related to different uses of the image. These finding as well as the limitations of this study are discussed.

  • Getting into character: Cultivating identities in a teen-theatre peer-education program

    Author:
    Valerie Futch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michelle Fine
    Abstract:

    This study investigated the role of community theatre participation on adolescent and young adult identity development. The theatre program, known as The SOURCE, focuses on sex-education through a peer-education model. The experiences of young adults, who are now aged 18-34, were examined through interviews (N=20), identity maps (N=9), and a survey (N=64) in order to understand how participation in this group influenced their development. While much of the literature documents the successes of such programs while youth participate, few document the longer-term impacts of such participation (SaldaƱa, McCammon, Omasta, & Hines, 2011). Data reveal how such involvement informed the youths' developing social and interpersonal lives, and their broader understanding of self. The findings show four broad effects that span micro- to macro-level contexts. First, The SOURCE is a unique "safe space" for youth, co-constructed by KT (the director) and the engaged youth, that privileges youth voices and experiences. Second, participation in the theatre program provides an opportunity for developing counternarratives of what it means to be an adolescent, how adolescents and young adults can act as social agents in their communities, and how sex education through peer-education methods can present such opportunities. Third, the findings show that theatre is a particularly valuable medium for engaging in developmental processes because it affords the participants opportunities to "play" with identity while simultaneously expressing emotions and experiences, in addition to learning empathically about the diversity and multiplicity of others. Finally, The SOURCE experience becomes embodied in ways that inform future decisions, identity development, and personal relationships. Narrative analysis of these findings and the mechanisms of such persistence, or "traveling power of self," are discussed. While these findings are encouraging for The SOURCE and from a positive youth development standpoint, they raise important questions about limiting such spaces through broader policies and budget reductions. It is suggested, in the conclusion of this dissertation, that removing the opportunities for participation in such spaces for youth amounts to a "relational injustice," which may have long-term developmental implications.

  • Yes we can: A dyadic investigation of cognitive interdependence, relationship communication, and optimal behavioral health outcomes among HIV serodiscordant same-sex male couples

    Author:
    Kristine Gamarel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Sarit Golub
    Abstract:

    Research suggests that couples who adopt a "we" orientation in relation to illness demonstrate greater resiliency and an increased capacity to cope with stressors. HIV serodiscordant couples (one partner is HIV-positive, the other is HIV-negative) have been identified as a critical mode of HIV transmission. The present study integrates dyadic coping models and interdependence theory to examine whether cognitive interdependence (i.e., the extent to which couples include aspects of their partner into their self-concept) and communication strategies are associated with sexual behavior, antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence, depressive symptoms, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction. The study also tested whether the associations between cognitive interdependence and behavioral health outcomes were mediated by each partners' reports of communication strategies. Further, this study qualitatively examined relationship dynamics in relation to behavioral health outcomes among a subsample of couples with different levels of cognitive interdependence. Data involved secondary analyses from the Duo Project (R01-NR010187; PI: Mallory Johnson). Quantitative analyses were guided by a multilevel structural equation modeling approach appropriate for dyadic data, and thematic analyses were used for qualitative data. For both partners, cognitive interdependence was associated with greater relationship satisfaction and lower depressive symptoms. For both partners, cognitive interdependence was associated with their partners' greater relationship and sexual satisfaction. Over-time mediation hypotheses were supported for relationship satisfaction, indicating that those who reported higher levels of cognitive interdependence also reported higher levels of positive communication, and in turn, higher levels of relationship satisfaction. Mediation was not found for sexual behavior, ART adherence, depressive symptoms, or sexual satisfaction. Qualitative analyses suggested that couples' who held congruent levels of cognitive interdependence appraised HIV and other health events as a shared stressor and engaged in effective communal coping strategies around ART adherence and sexual behaviors. The results of this study suggest that cognitive interdependence represents an important step in understanding couples' health threat appraisals, transformation of motivation process, and support strategies to promote better health behaviors. Findings have important practical implications that can be incorporated into biomedical prevention strategies, such as Treatment as Prevention (TasP) and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), for same-sex couples affected by HIV.

  • Towards a new model of intervention with Latino families surviving domestic violence

    Author:
    Claudia Garcia-Leeds
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Paul Wachtel
    Abstract:

    Attempts to understand and explain domestic violence have traditionally focused on biological, psychological and sociological models. These multi-modal perspectives have not completely succeeded in providing a truly integrated perspective of Latino families struggling with domestic violence, as they often fail to adequately acknowledge the impact of language, poverty, and undocumented status on the survivors' ability to overcome domestic violence. The goal of this study was to attempt to create a more effective treatment model by leveraging the knowledge and skill sets of those who work most closely with these families in crisis: the direct care workers. The participants, which consisted of the direct care staff of the Latino Domestic Violence Program (LDVP), were interviewed individually, and the data was analyzed in accordance with grounded theory methodology. The participants' responses were not only informative and moving, but also served to bring to the fore a number of important issues that might otherwise have been overlooked. The participants helped identify two main elements that needed to be part of an ideal program. First, the program must be equipped to address all the biopsychosocial needs experienced by the family. These include financial, occupational, educational and mental health needs. Undocumented and non-English speaking clients' needs must be also considered when developing a program for Latino families. Second, it is important that the staff be trained in various theories/models which include an in depth understanding of the clients' culture and where there may be a clash between the values and assumptions of these culture and mainstream America.

  • The Effects of Prompt Fading and Differential Reinforcement on Selection of Novel Activities by Children with Autism

    Author:
    Michelle Garruto
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Nancy Hemmes
    Abstract:

    Individuals with autism often show limited variability in selecting leisure activities. Repeatedly engaging in only one or a few activities may lead to decreased opportunities for social interaction and leisure skill development. The current study evaluated the effects of prompt fading and differential reinforcement on selection of novel activities (activities which had not yet been chosen during a given session), activity engagement, frequency of activity selection, and trials on which each activity was selected, in three students with autism. Prompting consisted of placing a small sticker dot below activities (or on their pictorial representations) that had already been selected during a session. Sticker size was faded systematically. The results show that the use of prompt fading and differential reinforcement for selecting novel activities increased selection of novel activities. Engagement in the activities selected was initially high for each of the three participants, and remained high throughout the study. Although the frequency of selection for each activity became more similar across activities in the post-baseline conditions for all participants, the activity with the highest average frequency of selection in baseline remained the highest throughout the study for two participants. The third participant equalized his selections so that the activity with the highest frequency of selection in baseline had the same average frequency as two other activities in all post-baseline conditions, with those having the highest overall frequency of selection. With respect to the trials on which each activity was selected, the activity chosen on the first trials in baseline continued to be chosen on the first trials throughout the study for one participant. The remaining two participants did show some shift in the activities chosen on the initial trials. This study then, demonstrates the efficacy of a treatment package in increasing the selection of activities not yet chosen in a session. The implications of these findings are discussed with regard to social validity and stimulus control of novel selection behavior.

  • INTER-SUBJECTIVITY AND COLLABORATIVE COMPLEXITY: EFFECTS OF PEER INTERACTION AND CONTEXT IN HEAD START CLASSROOMS

    Author:
    Rebecca Garte
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Anna Stetsenko
    Abstract:

    This study provides an assessment paradigm for examining the quality of children's experiences in preschool. In particular, it focused on peer interactions, as assessed by two measures: peer inter-subjectivity and collaborative complexity. To further understand the relationship between these measures peer interactions were analyzed as nested in activity areas through hierarchical linear modeling. Teacher interactions with the peer group and environmental flexibility of the activity area were also used to explain the relationship between the peer interaction measures. Results showed that the construct of inter-subjectivity was multi-dimensional for this population and sensitive to the immediate social and material context. Higher levels of peer inter-subjectivity were found to predict longer play interactions and greater collaborative complexity. The HLM models also showed that peer interactions varied as a function of activity area, and that environmental flexibility explained some of these differences. In addition, it was found that teacher interactions moderated the relationship between inter-subjectivity and collaborative complexity. In the majority of cases teacher intervention weakened this relationship and had a negative effect on inter-subjectivity levels. In conclusion these results show the theoretical concept of inter-subjectivity to be a valid and useful measurement construct for assessing preschool peer interactions. In addition, the results show that assessments of early childhood education may want to pay more attention to the micro-contexts of the preschool day in order to capture those aspects most salient for children's development. Given that this study was done with a low income sample, it is interesting to note that many of the same findings regarding middle class preschoolers in terms of peer interactions and play were replicated. Future research may want to explore different populations of preschoolers to determine whether the same dimensions of inter-subjectivity are found. In addition, it would be useful to see whether the social skills assessed in this study are linked to concurrent or longitudinal outcomes in related domains of development.

  • The Interaction of Intensity and Deviance on Auditory Event-Related Potentials: Findings Using Principal Component Analysis (PCA) of Current Source Densities (CSDs)

    Author:
    Nathan Gates
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Gerard Bruder
    Abstract:

    Mismatch negativity (MMN) studies provide insights into the brain's ability to perceive and/or detect deviations from established sensory patterns. Clinical studies investigating the loudness-dependency of auditory evoked potential (LDAEP) have shown a relationship between the intensity of an auditory stimulus and neuro-physiological or -chemical activity of the primary auditory cortex. Unfortunately, these two bodies of literature remain disjointed. The present study integrates elements of each body of literature to a) investigate the impact of varying levels of intensity deviance on N1/P2 with a standard set of intensities used in LDAEP paradigms, and b) assess the extent to which deviance-related processes (indexed by MMN) are affected by louder or softer tones. A passive MMN-paradigm used the same stimuli as deviants and standards in order to separate deviance- from stimulus-specific N1/P2 processes. A CSD-PCA approach was used to identify and quantify reference-independent patterns of activity underlying the ERP. Results show that the intensity dependence of N1/P2 is largely dependent on the context in which a given intensity was cast. Namely, a high rate of repetitions of standard intensities produce significant reductions (adaptations) in N1/P2, while N1/P2 enhancement occurred for louder, but not softer deviants. Moreover, MMN amplitude paralleled intensity disparity; however, louder deviants produced greater MMN activity than softer deviants, Intensity Modulation of N1 and MMN presumably reflecting an attentional modulation of sensory processing. A P3a-like vertex source was elicited by the loudest intensity (100 dB), but was absent for all other intensities. Insights gained from this study have direct implications for both clinical LDAEP and MMN studies. LDAEP studies should consider how overlapping or dynamic processes (e.g., adaptation of N1/P2 or elicitation of MMN) influence the amplitudes of N1 and P2. MMN studies should a) consider how attention may interact with intensity to produce distinctly different MMN responses independent of actual deviance-related processes, b) consider how P3a activity reflects a wider range of functions other than `attentional signaling,' such as response inhibition or startle-related processes, and c) consider other physiologically plausible and parsimonious explanations of MMN (e.g., sensory adaptation) when interpreting findings.

  • Sources of dual-task interference in visuomotor tracking assessed with behavioral and fMRI analyses

    Author:
    Yunglin Gazes
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Daniel Kurylo
    Abstract:

    Compensatory tracking was studied alone and simultaneous with a speeded go-no-go task using behavioral and neuroimaging with BOLD fMRI. In the dual-task condition, subjects used their right hand to track while making button presses with their left hand to respond to the secondary task. The study was replicated in two experiments. Replication was tested both behaviorally and with neuroimaging analyses using multivariate linear modeling. Tracking error and joystick velocity were binned into 640 ms and 100 ms intervals centered at secondary task stimulus onset and response in separate analyses to locate the time points at which the tracking behavior showed an interference effect due to the secondary task. Neuroimaging analyses located brain regions associated with compensatory tracking and with dual-task coordination. The binned time-series analyses revealed interference effect in joystick velocity about 200 ms before secondary task response. This finding combined with decreased activation in the left motor cortex during left hand response to a secondary task demonstrated that dual-task interference occurred in the motor preparation stage.

  • Living in an (In)Visible World: Lesbians' and Queer Women's Spaces and Experiences of Justice and Oppression in New York City, 1983-2008

    Author:
    Jen Gieseking
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Cindi Katz
    Abstract:

    Lesbians and queer women are often labeled "invisible" in and beyond the academy within a politics of visibility used to describe lgbtq people and their movement. This dissertation is a historical geography of contemporary lesbian and queer society, culture, and economies in the lgbtq "mecca" of New York City. This project draws upon 22 focus groups with 47 self-identified lesbians and queer women who came out between 1983 and 2008, as well as almost a year of archival research of documents spanning the same period. From this project, I argue that lesbians' and queer women's productions of urban space take the unique form of constellations, whereby material and imagined places, experiences, and bodies understood as lesbian and/or queer serve as the nodes between which participants draw connections to work around and against patriarchal and heteronormative systems of oppression. This feminist-queer theoretical contribution affords a way to argue against labeling lesbians and queer women as "invisible" while questioning and getting beyond visibility politics as the best solution for securing lgbtq justice and justice for women. Drawing from the needs and desires of participants, I suggest a politics of visibility, recognition, and participation as the next step in promoting more just futures for lesbians and queer women.