Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Intimate Justice: Sexual Satisfaction in Young Adults

    Author:
    Sara McClelland
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michelle Fine
    Abstract:

    Sexual satisfaction is an important indicator of individual and relational well-being. Questions remain whether this construct is adequately measured, particularly for women and men who experience limited sexual rights in the socio-political domain due to their gender and/or sexual minority status. The aims of the research were to: 1) develop a theoretical framework that acknowledges social, psychological, and relational antecedents of sexual satisfaction appraisals; 2) examine differences in sexual satisfaction among heterosexual and LGBT women and men; and 3) identify scale anchors and respondents' expectations for satisfaction when making appraisals in order to develop systematic methods for linking construct definitions with subsequent scores. Study 1 analyzed self-report data from 8,595 young adults (ages 18-28) from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Multivariate analyses indicated a crossover interaction between gender and sexual minority status: Heterosexual women and sexual minority men reported lower sexual satisfaction than heterosexual men and sexual minority women. Self-esteem and relational reciprocity moderated sexual satisfaction for women, but not for men; moderation effects were not found for sexual minority status. The data demonstrate that person- and relational-level factors affect individuals' sexual appraisals and that the gender of the partner plays an important role in sexual satisfaction. Study 2 investigated how heterosexual and sexual minority young adults defined sexual satisfaction. Students ages 18-28 (n=34) at an urban university completed a card sorting task, paper-and-pencil measures, including self-anchored ladder items (Cantril, 1965), and a semi-structured interview concerning sexual satisfaction. Gender differences were found in the scaling of sexual satisfaction: Women associated the low end of the scale with pain, whereas men associated low satisfaction with the absence of sex or masturbation. Interview data revealed that whereas heterosexual men most frequently defined satisfaction according to their own orgasm, women and LGBT men relied on other benchmarks, including feelings of safety and closeness, and a partner's satisfaction level. The findings from both studies suggest that when researchers study sexual satisfaction, it is critical to build sexual expectations into measures. Expectations for satisfaction are shaped by gender inequity and sexual stigma and these ultimately influence the validity of sexual satisfaction appraisals.

  • Resilience in the Offspring of Mothers with Schizophrenia

    Author:
    Michael McLoughlin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Peter Fraenkel
    Abstract:

    Abstract RESILIENCE IN THE OFFSPRING OF MOTHERS WITH SCHIZOPHRENIA by Michael K. McLoughlin Adviser: Peter Fraenkel Eight adult offspring of mothers with schizophrenia were interviewed about their experience of being raised with a mentally-ill mother. Mean age of offspring was 8.6 years when their mothers first displayed symptoms. All offspring were initially from intact married, two parent families. Majority of mothers were mentally healthy, functional parents during participants` early childhoods. Participants experienced ambiguous loss in regard to losing their “pre-illness mother” to schizophrenia. Offspring reported confusion over mother`s mental status due to lack of family communication. Offspring children typically felt responsible for somehow causing their mother`s illness. Mothers experienced a mean delay of 5.7 years between showing full symptoms and receiving a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Participants noted lack of support from extended family, the community and the mental health system. Offspring described many challenges in getting their emotional needs met and in dealing with stigma from the community. Mother`s emotional withdrawal, religious fanaticism, paranoia and delusions were the symptoms most disruptive to family life. Coping strategies of offspring included compartmentalizing home life from their school and social lives with peers, immersing themselves in school and community activities such as sports and using humor. Main sources of support were identified as “my own drive to succeed” “doing things for others” ,belief in a Higher Power, playing music and relying on fathers, friends and (as adults) spouses/partners. Participants reported experiencing survivor guilt from leaving younger siblings and mother behind when first leaving home. As adults, participants displayed early first marriage (mean =22.2 yrs) compared to general U.S. rates, and decreased mean birth rate of 0.9 children per participant compared to their mothers` mean birth rate of 2.8 children. Participants described not having children as an active choice due to fears that their child or they themselves might later develop schizophrenia (due to genetic risk). For some, being parentified in childhood also contributed to their decision to not have children. The few participants who had their own children considered them an important source of emotional support. Offspring and their families appear to experience the five stages of grief (Kubler-Ross, 1969) in reconciling the loss of mother to mental illness.

  • Male Gender Role Conflict as Seen Through the Muscularity Concerns of Self-Identified Latino Men

    Author:
    Juan Mejias
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Elliot Jurist
    Abstract:

    The purpose of the proposed research is to contribute to the emerging field of male psychology. Over the last twenty years, as more insight has been made into the challenges that shape female development, some researchers have turned their attention to the study of male psychological development, from childhood to late adulthood. At the heart of this new area of psychology is the contradiction between what is socially sanctioned for men(expectations such as independence, assertiveness, stoicism) and what is often criticized of them (emotionally unavailable or inexpressive, lack of family involvement, fear of intimacy). The result of this contradiction in the socialization of males is called male gender role conflict. Dovetailing with this line of research was an interest in male body image after years of research on women and eating disorders. Researchers found that whereas women strived to be thinner, men often strived to be more muscular. The proposed study seeks to examine the possible connection between male gender role conflict and the importance of muscularity in Latino men raised in the United States. For the current study, two hypotheses were tested. First, using the Gender Role Conflict Scale (GRCS) and normative data on men of different ethnic groups, the Latino men in the study demonstrated comparable scores with previous research of Latino men. However they did show significantly higher GRC scores than European and African-American men in the "Success, Power, Competition" subscale. Secondly, using the Swansea Muscularity Attitudes Questionnaire (SMAQ), a positive correlation was found between scores on the GRCS and scores on the SMAQ so that as GRCS scores increased, so too did scores on the SMAQ.

  • A psychoanalytic exploration into the memory and aesthetics of everyday life: Photographs, recollections, and encounters with loss

    Author:
    Dimitrios Mellos
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Jeffrey Rosen
    Abstract:

    The project at hand explores some of the psychological functions of photography as both an everyday and an artistic cultural practice from a psychoanalytic perspective. It is proposed that, contrary to commonsensical opinion, photographs are not accurate depositories of memory, but rather function as a functional equivalent of screen memories, thus channeling the subject's memory in ways that are objectively distorted and distorting, but psychologically meaningful and important; moreover, they are a special kind of screen memory in that they are often created pre-emptively and are physically instantiated. Additionally, it is suggested that, by dint of their materiality, photographs achieve a degree of autonomy from the purposes of their creators and viewers, with the result that they can also trigger unwanted and potentially traumatic recollections, along the lines of the Freudian notion of `deferred action'. Specifically, different ways in which photographs can enter into the experiencing and processing of loss are explored. It is proposed that photographs can either facilitate normal mourning or impede it. They can be used to either disavow loss, to repetitively fixate on it in a sadomasochistic manner, or to facilitate the transition to an acceptance of loss and moving on. Parallels are drawn between these various uses of photographs and three types of physical/emotionally charged objects: fetishes, transitional objects, and what I term `masochistic objects'. The paradox of the accrual of aesthetic value on certain photographs and not others is explored next. The attainment of aesthetic value is separated from the conscious intentions of the photographer, and is instead linked to certain underlying psychological parameters, primarily, the acceptance of the depressive position and of the separateness of the libidinal object, as well as the capacity to achieve a controlled surrender to primary-process functioning. These conceptualizations are illustrated by reference to specific photographs (taken by the author, who is also a recognized photographer), as well as through an analysis of several poems of the Greek poet Kiki Dimoula, in whose oeuvre photography is a prominent and recurrent theme.

  • Criminal, Antisocial, and Temporal Patterns in the Histories of Serial and Non-serial Sexual Murderers

    Author:
    Victoria Mesa
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Louis Schlesinger
    Abstract:

    Despite its having been the subject of clinical and scholarly inquiry for more than two centuries, empirical research regarding the phenomenon of sexually-motivated homicide remains limited. In particular, relatively few prior studies have focused on perpetrators' criminal and antisocial backgrounds, and these often examine only the data found in official arrest and conviction records, which frequently provide incomplete accounts of offenders' histories. Even fewer researchers have investigated whether temporal patterns exist in the offense histories of sexual murderers. The current study included data on 46 serial and 93 non-serial perpetrators of sexually-motivated homicide, obtained from a large archive. Data collection and coding methods were selected to allow for the use of comparative and multivariate statistical analyses to determine whether the serial and non-serial offender groups differed significantly on the measured variables. Results indicated that multiple offense types were found more frequently in the backgrounds of serial sexual murderers than in non-serial offenders. Few sexual murderers in either group produced temporal patterns in their offense histories. Subsets of victim, offender, and historical variables were used to develop predictive models that could be helpful in distinguishing serial from non-serial sexual homicide offenders. Implications for clinical practitioners, researchers, and law enforcement agencies are discussed.

  • Saccadic Eye Movements in Non-visual Cognition: Data Acquisition, Relationship with Memory, and Sensitivity to Physical Presence of an Interlocutor

    Author:
    Dragana Micic
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Howard Ehrlichman
    Abstract:

    This study was designed to collect evidence that a subset of the human saccadic eye movement repertoire may be intrinsic to internal cognitive processing and independent from social or perceptual aspects of ongoing cognitive activity. We refer to saccades that accompany processing of internal information as non-visual eye movements (NVEMs) and variations in saccadic activity during different cognitive tasks as non-visual gaze patterns (NVGPs). Because cognitive tasks are typically performed with eyes open, it is of paramount importance for the validity of NVGP research to establish that NVEMs are in fact non-visual. This was the primary goal of Experiment 1 in which data were collected with eyes closed and open using video recordings and electrooculography (EOG). EOG power which integrates frequency and amplitude of EMs was compared to eye-movement rate (EMR) obtained by counting visible EMs from a video record. NVGPs were found with eyes open and closed and EOG power was found to be highly correlated with EMR. Experiment also 1 tested the proposition that NVGPs reflect memory functions, specifically that search through LTM triggers EMs and maintenance of information in WM triggers fixation. While significant effects of LTM search were found both when eyes were open and closed, the effect of maintenance was inconclusive. A significant effect of LTM search was found using both verbal and non-verbal tasks. Experiment 2 examined the possibility that high EMR is elicited by search for information in LTM. Consistent with this idea, EMR was found to be significantly higher in free recall than in repetition and recognition. EMR was also examined in the presence of social factors. Presence or absence of the experimenter had no effect on the known pattern of NVEMs. In addition, significantly more EMs occurred in high than in low retrieval tasks even when participants were instructed to keep their gaze fixed on the experimenter. Although gaze fixation significantly reduced EMR, spontaneous saccades occurred more often in high than in low-retrieval tasks. Collected evidence strongly attests to the possibility that NVEMs are related to memory as suggested by ample indications of neuroanatomical linkage between oculomotor and memory systems.

  • Childhood Victimization and Childlessness

    Author:
    Samantha Miller
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Cathy Spatz Widom
    Abstract:

    Motivation to have children is a complex construct, driven not only by biology, but also by expectations and social roles. With a few exceptions, the literature on demographic, psychological, and interpersonal correlates of childlessness does not include adults with a history of childhood victimization. This dissertation explores whether maltreated children are more likely to be childless in adulthood than individuals without histories of childhood victimization. Demographic and psychological differences between previously maltreated children who have children of their own and those who remain childless were explored, as well as differences between previously maltreated children who have children of their own and matched controls. Data were part of a cohort design study in which abused and neglected children (N = 676) were matched with non-abused/non-neglected children (N = 520) and followed prospectively into adulthood (mean age 28.72). The Pearson chi-square statistic was used for simple bivariate comparisons of groups. Logistic regression equations were computed with interactions for childhood maltreatment and hypothesized moderators predicting the dichotomous dependent variable of childlessness. Because most analyses will be based on logistic regression equations, the use of the phrase "increased risk" is used in a statistical way to refer to significant odds ratios. It is recognized that childlessness may be protective and the phrase "increased risk" is not meant pejoratively or to pathologize childlessness. Analyses were performed for the overall sample as well as for specific types of abuse/neglect, for males and females, and for younger and older age groups, separately. Overall, 27.5% (n = 329) of the sample was childless at the time of the assessment. Being female, a high school graduate, working in a professional or managerial position, and having a lifetime diagnosis of alcohol abuse were significant predictors of childlessness. Contrary to findings in the literature and current expectations, several other characteristics (i.e, religiosity, relationship fidelity, self-esteem, and having a lifetime diagnosis of depression, dysthymia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and drug abuse) did not predict childlessness. There was no main effect for child abuse and neglect or for specific types of abuse and neglect on childlessness in adulthood. That is, the abused/neglected group were not more likely to be childless than matched controls. In terms of overall moderation effects, educational attainment significantly interacted with childhood maltreatment to predict childlessness. Moderation effects for specific types of abuse indicated that generalized anxiety disorder interacted with neglect; alcohol abuse, educational attainment, and religiosity interacted with sexual abuse; and alcohol abuse and religiosity interacted with physical abuse to predict childlessness. Several findings were gender-specific. For women, childhood sexual abuse interacted with education and alcohol abuse to decrease the risk of childlessness, and religiosity to increase the risk of childlessness. For men, childhood maltreatment in general and physical abuse each interacted with alcohol abuse to decrease the risk of childlessness. In addition, several findings were age-specific. For participants over age 30, childhood physical abuse interacted with religiosity to increase the risk of childlessness and for participants under age 30 childhood sexual and physical abuse interacted with education and alcohol abuse, respectively, to decrease the risk of childlessness. There were no interactions between self-esteem, fidelity, or any other psychiatric diagnosis and maltreatment status on childlessness. These findings bridge the gap between the extant literature on childlessness, which focuses mainly on non-maltreated samples, and the separate literature on child maltreatment, which focuses mainly on individuals who have children. Despite surprising findings, these results have implications for social service interventions and psychological treatment.

  • Anomalous Maternal Behavior at Four-Months and Infant Attachment Disorganization at One Year

    Author:
    Jillian Miller
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Diana Diamond
    Abstract:

    The present study examines the link between 4-month mother-infant affective communication and patterns of infant attachment at one year, highlighting the relation between anomalous maternal behavior at 4-months and infant attachment disorganization at one year. The study's first aim was to expand on the work of Bronfman, Parsons & Lyons-Ruth, (1999) and of Kelly (2004), by identifying a select array of maternal behaviors, assessed at 4-months, projected to be salient critical predictors of disorganized infant attachment. The next aim was to determine whether selected anomalous maternal behaviors could distinguish mother-infant attachment patterns at one year. Subjects were 75 low-risk mother-infant pairs. Anomalous maternal behavior was assessed at 4-months from videotaped, face-to face interactions using The Modified AMBIANCE - Selected Affective Errors, 4-Months (M-AMBIANCE) (Miller, 2010). The M-AMBIANCE, which identifies 9 anomalous maternal behaviors to be coded, is a modification of Kelly's (2004) adaptation of the AMBIANCE (Atypical Maternal Behavior Instrument for Assessment and Classification, Bronfman, Parsons & Lyons-Ruth, 1999). At one year, quality of infant attachment was assessed during Ainsworth's Strange Situation (Ainsworth et al., 1978, Main & Solomon, 1990). Results indicate that selected anomalous maternal behaviors capture disturbances in maternal affective communication associated with infant attachment disorganization. Contrary to expectations, it was not the quantity of anomalous maternal behavior that best distinguished disorganized from organized dyads, but the quality of anomalous behavior. Mothers of disorganized infants were more apt to become aggressive with their infants and to respond anomalously to infant distress. While mothers of secure infants behaved anomalously with their infants, they did not become aggressive and were significantly less apt to respond anomalously to infant upset. A subset of secure infants (vulnerable secures) displayed higher levels of disorganization at 1-year and had mothers who at 4-months displayed more total anomalous behavior and overriding behavior than mothers of pure secure infants. Vulnerable secure mothers also displayed more overriding behaviors than mothers of disorganized infants, and were judged to more disrupted in 4-month affective communication than mothers of insecure or pure secure infants. Results have implications for attachment theory and for the early identification and treatment of high-risk dyads.

  • PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL AS A PREDICTOR OF EMOTION AND JOB SATISFACTION: AN EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION OF APPRAISAL THEORY AND AFFECTIVE EVENTS THEORY

    Author:
    LORIANNE MITCHELL
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Yochi Cohen-Charash
    Abstract:

    The following is a two-part investigation that tested hypotheses derived from a combination of the tenets of appraisal theory (Lazarus & Smith, 1988; Smith & Lazarus, 2001) and Affective Events Theory (AET, Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). The research questions examined were the following: Q1: What is the relationship between the appraisals of relevancy, congruency and accountability of information derived from performance appraisal and the emotional reactions to the appraisals? Q2: How do the emotional reactions experienced after receiving performance appraisal feedback relate to employees' job satisfaction one week later? These research questions were examined in two studies. In the first study I examined research question 1, using a sample of undergraduate students receiving exam scores. In the second study I examined research question 2 to replicate and build on the findings of Study 1, using a sample of employees receiving job performance feedback. Results are discussed using the frameworks of appraisal theory (Lazarus & Smith, 1988; Smith & Lazarus, 2001) and affective events theory (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996).

  • The Impact of Perfectionism on Work Attitudes and Behavior

    Author:
    Luke Monck
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Abraham Korman
    Abstract:

    The two studies presented represent one of the first systematic investigations of perfectionism in the workplace since Burns (1980). In study one, 196 employed students served as participants. Perfectionism was negatively related to facets of job satisfaction and positively related to constructs indicative of negative experiences at work including facets of work strain, burnout, and personal alienation. The second study, which used 52 management consultants as participants, found perfectionism positively related to supervisory-rated OCB conscientiousness. This result was interpreted as illustrating that, rather than serving a satisfaction-reciprocation function, OCB serves an anxiety-reduction function for perfectionists allowing them to compensate for perceived "failures" on the job. Implications for the organizational psychology, perfectionism, and regulatory focus literature are discussed.