Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • An Empirical Analysis of Adult Romantic Attachment and Sexuality

    Author:
    Belinda Carrasco
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Diana Diamond
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this dissertation was to empirically explore the relationship between adult romantic attachment and sexual functioning in a sexual partner who is viewed as an attachment figure, a target of caregiving or both. Guiding this dissertation was the expectation that underlying the four prototypical patterns of adult romantic attachment is a distinct pattern of positive and negative working models of attachment of self and other that shape the way individuals experience and engage in sexuality. We analyzed the responses of 81 female students and young adult community volunteers from the New York City area and Westchester County, who responded to self-report measures regarding sexual satisfaction, capacity for stability of sexual relationships and functioning in the sexual response cycle, in addition to responding to adult romantic attachment questionnaires. Results revealed that secure attachment is related to sexual satisfaction, low permissiveness and tendency to seek sex in committed relationships. The findings also indicated that the capacity to experience pleasure and stability of sexual relationships, in combination with the physical aspects of sex, such as arousal, excitement and orgasm, are the essence of a securely attached relationship. By contrast, insecure attachment was found to be positively correlated with little commitment and dependency in romantic relationships, as well as sexual dissatisfaction. In specific, dismissive and fearful women downplayed the importance of sexual relationships, reported higher levels of aggression, as well as reported optimal sexuality functioning in areas that only entail physical aspects of sex and do not include components of affection, tenderness and mutuality between people. Results also indicated that women who have a preoccupied attachment status showed less sexual satisfaction than other insecure women, and more sexual dysfunction defined by a lower capacity for orgasm, arousal, sexual excitement and openness to varied sexual practices. Overall, the results indicated that ambivalent/preoccupied women are attuned to their attachment needs and gear their sexual behavior towards getting those needs gratified. In other words, in anxious women the hyper-activation of the attachment system overrides the capacity to experience sexual pleasure, satisfaction, commitment to a relationship and the experience of orgasm, and thus experience and interpret sexual activity as a reflection of their relationship status.

  • Searching for Food (Justice): A qualitative case-study of the food environment and practices in a low-income micro-neighborhood in Long Island City, Queens, NY

    Author:
    Christine Caruso
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Gary Winkel
    Abstract:

    Abstract Searching for (Just) Food: A qualitative case study of the food environment in a low-income micro-neighborhood in Long Island City, NY by Christine Caruso Adviser: Professor Gary Winkel Problems of food access, food insecurity and hunger, are linked to numerous adverse health outcomes including increased rates of morbidity and mortality due to diet related diseases. In addition, these inequities highlight social justice problems, such as spatial segregation and neighborhood deprivation, within the larger food system. This project aims to explore the links between food systems, access, and food practices among low-income residents living in an underserved food environment in order to better understand the current barriers and struggles related to accessing healthy and desirable foods. This project focuses on the Queensbridge micro-neighborhood located within the larger neighborhood of Long Island City, in Queens, NY. Given the complexity of the issues surrounding the food system and the differential impacts on people across various socio-economic statuses the aims of this study include gaining a better understanding of the issues and processes involved among low-income community members related to the ways in which they source and consume food in the conventional and alternative food systems. The primary research questions informing this dissertation are: what are participants' perceptions of their food environment(s), particularly around the areas of quality, value, and taste of available products? What are the socio-cultural factors present in the micro-neighborhood that gets inscribed into the food environment, and how do these characteristics influence purchasing decisions? And, what is the level of awareness, attitudes toward and use of alternative food networks (AFNs) among community members? I will address these questions through conducting participant observation, in-depth interviews, and archival research with members of a community-based advocacy organization, as well as community members living in and around the Queensbridge micro-neighborhood, and staff members and volunteers of area community-based organizations. Findings in this dissertation focus on participants' perceptions and experience of the food environment in this community utilizing a food justice framework to interrogate the forms of race and class based differences that undergird residents' food practices.

  • Sex Differences in Systemic and Central Morphine Analgesia in Rats: Organizational-Activational Gonadal Hormone Interactions and Roles of Gonadal Hormone Accumulating Nuclei

    Author:
    Giuseppe Cataldo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Richard Bodnar
    Abstract:

    Sex differences in morphine analgesia are commonly seen following systemic and intracerebral administration with male rats displaying greater analgesic magnitudes and potencies than females. The purpose of this dissertation research was to elucidate further possible neural mechanisms which elicit these differences. Due to its common roles in both antinociceptive and reproductive behaviors, we hypothesized that the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) is subject to sex differences upon morphine analgesia sensitive to organizational-activational manipulations of gonadal hormones as well as lesions of hypothalamic estradiol-containing nuclei. Thus, the first experiment examined the organizational manipulation of gonadal hormones and effects of adult ovariectomy or estradiol replacement and systemic morphine analgesia. To assess the generalizability of these effects, the second experiment evaluated these differences upon morphine analgesia elicited from the vlPAG as well as the interaction between organizational and activational gonadal hormone manipulations. The third experiment then evaluated the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) and the medial preoptic area (MPOA) hypothalamic estradiol-containing nuclei's contribution to and their possible role by which female rats display a smaller opiate analgesic effect. Adult ovariectomy minimally affected morphine analgesia in neonatal vehicle-treated females, while significantly reducing the magnitude but not the potency of morphine analgesia in neonatal androgenized female rats. This suggests a limited organizational-activational gonadal hormone interaction in the mediation of systemic morphine analgesia in female rats. In marked contrast, neonatal androgenized female rats displayed significantly greater magnitudes of vlPAG morphine analgesia than neonatal vehicle-treated female rats. Adult ovariectomy significantly enhanced the magnitude and potency of vlPAG morphine analgesia in female rats treated neonatally with either vehicle or testosterone with the latter effect suggesting a strong organizational-activational gonadal hormone interaction in the mediation of vlPAG morphine analgesia in female rats. Lesions of the VMH and MPOA strongly suggest that they act to tonically inhibit endogenous pain-inhibitory circuits in the female, but not male brain, and that removal of circulating gonadal hormones by ovariectomy and/or excitotoxic destruction of these estrogen receptor accumulating nuclei disinhibit the female analgesic response to systemic morphine. Collectively, these results strongly implicate the vlPAG, organizational and activational effects of gonadal hormones as well as hypothalamic estradiol-containing nuclei in mediating sex differences in morphine analgesia in rats.

  • The Advantage of Mapping Gentrification with Geographic Information Systems: Comparisons of Three New York City Neighborhoods, 1980 - Present

    Author:
    Chung Chang
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    John Seley
    Abstract:

    This dissertation adopts a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) approach to map gentrification. It explores the combination of GIS and publicly available data as a new research tool to investigate gentrification at the Census Tract level within three New York City neighborhoods (Park Slope, Williamsburg and the Lower East Side). Results are compared to contemporary gentrification studies to argue the advantages of utilizing this methodology. Since the term "gentrification" was coined (Glass, 1964), scholars with different research methods have produced a considerable body of literature. However, debates on causes and effects persist. While disciplinary differences could be the reasons for disagreement, another explanation is the various study geographical scales that can range from a single property to an entire city. This dissertation argues neighborhoods are the suitable spatial scale to study gentrification. Three neighborhoods are defined with selected Census Tracts. Rather than aggregating these selected Census Tracts into a single neighborhood, the gentrification maps were created by connecting socio-economic status indicators from Census Surveys to each Census Tract. This approach demonstrates the different degrees of gentrification within these three neighborhoods. Data from 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010 Census Surveys are used for cross-sectional and longitudinal comparisons. The advantages of this design are: first, the cross-sectional maps demonstrate the different degrees of gentrification within the neighborhoods at a given time. Second, the longitudinal maps show where gentrification moved and expanded through time. Third, as the surrounding Census Tracts outside the defined neighborhoods are also mapped, the "spillover effect" is also examined. Fourth, the clearly defined geographical boundaries of neighborhoods ensure exact comparisons with other researchers and future studies. These gentrification maps revealed that the gentrification of these neighborhoods has been spatially uneven. Certain areas were gentrified first and subsequent gentrification anchored these initial sections. Further, gentrification did not spread equally or endlessly. There were several factors that either facilitated or impeded the expansion of gentrification, and these factors usually worked in tandem with each other. In summary, the gentrification maps in this study provided an enhanced understanding of the spatial-temporal patterns of gentrification in these three neighborhoods.

  • On the way to becoming an adult in urban America: Similarities and differences between men and women

    Author:
    Heather Charatz
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    David Bearison
    Abstract:

    The term emerging adulthood coined by Jeffrey Arnett (2004), attempts to describe the tumultuous lives of individuals in their 20's. Emerging adults in western society are characterized as postponing adult commitments and responsibilities while completing their extended education, trying out and then establishing careers and exploring relationships (Arnett, 2000, 479). Men and women are socialized differently throughout childhood and adolescence (Chodorow, 1978). However, "for today's young people, both male and female, the road to adulthood is a long one" (Arnett, 2004, 3). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate how males and females experienced emerging adulthood in urban America. Fifteen men and 15 women from the New York City area between the ages of 23 and 28 were recruited by posting an ad on a popular web-site in the New York City area. Interested individuals who qualified for the study were interviewed and asked three open-ended questions with follow-up probes to obtain narratives about who they are and what their lives are like. These interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Two different types of narrative analyses were conducted 1) Topic/theme coding and 2) critical event coding. Topic/theme coding involved researchers extracting information about experiences that recur and are important and influential issues causing them to emerge as topics and themes in the narratives. Topics/themes were compared between males and females to find similarities and differences between topics discussed. Critical event coding focused on experiences that change people's lives. These events were compared within and between gender to find similarities and differences. The data collected enhanced the current understanding of emerging adulthood by closely looking at what made up the experiences of emerging adults. Researchers found that in the narratives of both males and females similar themes were found. However, the topics uncovered in the themes varied between genders. Researchers also found that critical events were present in both male and female narratives. Specifically, intrinsic, extrinsic and personal events were present in both males and females.

  • Representations of Colorism in the Jamaican Culture and the Practice of Skin Bleaching

    Author:
    Christopher Charles
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    William Cross Jr.
    Abstract:

    This study deconstructs the images that influence Jamaicans to bleach their skin. Social representation theory (SRT) is used to pinpoint the origins of colorism and then trace its entrenchment in the culture and communications. SRT theorems say (1) the social images have a history; (2) these images are diffused and become embedded in the culture; (3) people use these images to understand their environment and create identities; (4) over time, repeated social exchanges become institutionalized culture; and (5) the images in the culture can be easily triggered and overheard in conversations. History data was collected from colonial and contemporary newspapers; the diffusion data was collected from popular songs, poems, and a novel; identity data was collected from interviews; institutionalization data was captured from participant observation of skin bleaching vendor-customer transactions; dialogic data was collected from a focus group interview. The findings are that the complexion consensus is a historical continuum in old and new newspapers. Colorism is contested in reggae and dancehall songs and literary works. The repeated vendor-customer exchanges reveal that skin bleaching is an established cultural practice. Participants use colorism to define themselves which influences them to bleach their skin. Colorism was heard in participants' conversations about race and skin bleaching. The results suggest that the complexion consensus is a hegemonic representation which influences the beliefs and behavior of the skin bleachers in Jamaica.

  • Morphological Development and Taxonomy of Cortical Neurons in Mouse Barrel Cortex: The Effect of Sensory Deprivation During the Critical Period

    Author:
    Chia-Chien Chen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Joshua Brumberg
    Abstract:

    Neurons are the basic processing units and the fundamental building blocks of the nervous system, and understanding neuronal morphology provides a necessary first step towards comprehending the composition of the cortical microcircuits that perform cognitive computations within the cerebral cortex. Utilizing a histological impregnation technique that labels neurons in their entirety, detailed morphologies of barrel cortical neurons were investigated and the effect of chronic sensory deprivation explored. This research produced a number of key findings: 1) neurons in layer VI of the barrel cortex, which receives inputs from the contralateral facial whiskers, are composed of six geometrically distinct and morphologically heterogeneous populations; 2) chronic sensory deprivation of whisker-related input spanning across early neonatal development can considerably influence neurons' geometric properties, with structural alterations observed in somatic, apical and basilar dendritic features in layer VI of barrel cortex; 3) cortical response to disruption and restoration of sensation, as assessed by quantifying and categorizing dendritic protrusions, is cortex-layer specific and age-dependent, and a key protein regulating the content of extracellular matrix is upregulated following disruption of sensory experience. The main conclusions drawn from this research were that the composition within cerebral cortex is definable yet highly complex, and neurons respond to the ever-updating sensory environment by modifying their morphology and molecular content within the cerebral cortex. Characterizing neuronal elements provides a framework for better understanding of structure-function relationships within neocortical circuits in general, and how the sensory input provides the essential mechanisms for the appropriate development of cerebral cortex, an important prerequisite for proper perceptual functioning.

  • PATHWAYS TO HIGH-LETHALITY SUICIDE ATTEMPTS

    Author:
    Megan Chesin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Elizabeth Jeglic
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this study was to develop a model of the trajectory to high-lethality suicidal behavior for individuals with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). An increased number of previous suicide attempts, substance use immediately prior to the attempt, and objective planning were proposed to lead directly to an attempt of higher lethality. Meanwhile, aggression and impulsivity were hypothesized to lead indirectly, through their association with past suicidal behavior, to a higher lethality attempt. Path analysis revealed a revised model that applied only to individuals with BPD. In this final model, impulsivity was found to be significantly associated with higher-lethality suicide attempts and the frequency of an individual's past suicidal behavior. Additionally, the traits of impulsivity and aggression were found to be significantly correlated in the multivariate model. Pathways linking alcohol use at the time of the attempt to the lethality of suicidal behavior and aggression to the frequency of an individual's past suicidal behavior were not found to be significant, and no model using the variables of interest in this study could be determined for individuals with MDD. These results are discussed in light of current theories of suicidal behavior and in terms of their implications for clinical practice.

  • Changing gender: Gender role, class and the experience of Chinese female immigrants

    Author:
    Doris Cheung
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Anna Stetsenko
    Abstract:

    This dissertation analyzes gender role identity development in Chinese female immigrants from diverse work and education backgrounds. This study focuses on Chinese female immigrants, bakery salesladies and social workers, to addresses a gap in the existing literature, which has previously emphasized factory workers and students, on gender role identity development at the interface of social context and activity system dynamics. To understand further the Chinese female immigration experience, this research investigates how gender role identity is manifested across different social contexts and institutions. I administered questionnaires and conducted interviews with Chinese female immigrants residing in New York City. The sample consisted of two groups with different occupations, educational backĀ¬grounds, socio-economic statuses, and levels of cultural assimilation: bakery salesladies and social workers. I captured the process of gender role identity development through participants' own voices and narratives. I analyzed the data and discussed it in light of an activity theory framework. The key finding was that, for both groups, gender role identity was deeply influenced by traditional Chinese ideology including the traditional gender hierarchy, male supremacy, and the values of modesty, and maintaining interpersonal harmony. Bakery salesladies encountered less conflict at work and were more likely to avoid conflict at home. In contrast, social workers expressed a greater predisposition to voice their opinions without being confrontational at work and were ready to halt conversations when they sensed that their husbands were getting upset. Furthermore, in terms of life goals, the bakery salesladies tended to focus on their family needs and perceive the success of family members as their own success, whereas the social workers often had aspirations that went beyond traditional gender roles and valued and aspired to contributing to society. The findings reveal gender role identity to be an active and non-homogenous process of "doing gender" through which women negotiate various positions across cultural contexts, social locations, histories and ideologies within their unique activity systems.

  • FLUID OCCUPANCY: POLITICS AND SPACE IN A TAIPEI NIGHT MARKET

    Author:
    CHI-HSIN CHIU
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Setha Low
    Abstract:

    This dissertation shows how street vendors in Shilin Night Market, in Taipei City, Taiwan, through spatial, social, and material practices, shape and reshape an urban landscape. I find the space they produce to be a vernacular representation of modernity for an authentic urban identity. Dealing with the municipality and local community, street vendors have continually appropriated public and private property in both legal and extralegal situations. Municipal officials and urban planners have followed these spatial practices in an effort to fix, standardize, and tax their vending spaces. Extralegal vendors, provoked by this official scrutiny, developed a spatial practice of "fluid occupancy" supported by social relations, micro politics, and embodied performances to sustain their operation outside legal boundaries. Culturally speaking, the culinary practices of domestic and migrant food vendors, and the clothing vendors' involvement with transnational wholesale trades, stretch the identity of Shilin Night Market from that of a local trading place to a liminal space that subsumes a grounded, place-specific practice within a network of transnational flows. Despite the fact that street vendors created economic and cultural capital as the basis of a thriving market, they eventually became the targets of removal in the political discourse of reframing the market as a tourist space shaped in the spirit of capitalist modernity. To maximize the transnational quality of Shilin Night Market as they seek to forge a cosmopolitan identity for Taipei, municipal officials redeveloped the market into a prominent tourist destination, building a new, indoor market and relocating extralegal vendors into storefront arcades under the privatized governance of a property association. Eventually, some street vendors were incorporated into the municipal prototype, and others have kept contesting unauthorized space. I celebrate the hybridity of this commercial landscape that unifies the steady and the fluid occupancies of public space, as well as the global and the local synergy infused within the setting. My dissertation suggests that modern design practices can pursue process-driven planning strategies that forego displacement and exclusion, seeking instead to balance esthetic and economic concerns with an acknowledgement of the social ecologies of physically and culturally distinct, urban places.