Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • THE EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD MALTREATMENT ON CRIMINAL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE OUTCOMES IN URBAN YOUTH DIAGNOSED WITH ADHD

    Author:
    Virginia De Sanctis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Jeffrey Halperin
    Abstract:

    Results from longitudinal studies of individuals diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in childhood have clearly shown that these children are at heightened risk for poor outcomes as they enter into adolescence and early adulthood. Among poor outcomes criminality (Barkley, Fischer, Edelbrock, & Smallish, 1990; Hechtman & Weiss, 1986; Mannuzza, Klein, Konig, & Giampino, 1989; Mannuzza, Klein, Bessler, Malloy, & LaPadula, 1993) and substance use disorders (SUDs; Mannuzza, Klein, Bessler, Malloy, & LaPadula, 1998; Wilens, Biederman, & Mick, 1998; King, Iacono, & Mcgue, 2004) are particularly prevalent and cause significant hardship for the individual, their family, and society at large. While early conduct disorder (CD) has been shown to account for a substantial portion of the risk associated with later criminality and substance use in youth with ADHD (Armstrong & Costello, 2002; Brook, Whiteman, Cohen, Shapiro, & Balka, 1995; Disney, Elkins, Mcgue, & Iacono, 1999; Barkley, Fischer, Smallish, & Fletcher, 2004), the extent to which other factors, such as a history of childhood maltreatment, contribute to poor outcomes remain relatively unexplored. This is surprising given the fact that 1) there is a clear literature showing that childhood maltreatment confers considerable risk for later poor outcome in general population studies (Cicchetti & Manly, 2001; Widom, 1989a; Smith & Thornberry, 1995; Zingraff, Leiter, Myers, & Johnsen, 1993; Ireland, Smith, & Thornberry, 2002; Smith, Ireland, & Thornberry, 2005), and 2) children diagnosed with ADHD are at increased risk for maltreatment due to externalizing behaviors and dysfunctional parental relations (Briscoe-Smith & Hinshaw, 2006; Ford, Racusin, Daviss, Ellis,Thomas, Rogers, et al., 1999). To our knowledge, no study has examined the contributory role of childhood maltreatment on later poor outcome among children with ADHD. The identification of maltreatment as risk factor is important as it could 1) significantly change the way clinicians assess and treat children with ADHD, and 2) be instrumental in the development of more targeted treatment alternatives and interventions for this at risk population. The following series of studies investigated the role of childhood maltreatment in the development of later criminality and SUDs in adolescents and young adults in a referred sample of urban, ethnically and socio-economically diverse children recruited in childhood between the ages of seven and 11 years and diagnosed with ADHD (N = 183). This group was re-assessed in adolescence (n = 98), almost ten years later, and compared to a well-matched, never-ADHD comparison group (n = 85). Official criminal records for the sample were obtained approximately three years after commencement of the adolescent follow-up. The results of these studies clearly establish a history of childhood maltreatment as a potent and important risk factor for later poor outcome in ADHD youth. In addition, it appears from our results that at least some portion of the poor outcome that has been attributed to CD in ADHD studies may in fact be due to childhood maltreatment. These findings have important implications with regard to antisocial and substance use outcomes and emphasize the utility of assessing childhood maltreatment in ADHD populations.

  • Emotion Regulation and Aging: A Neurophysiological Study

    Author:
    Jennifer DeCicco
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Tracy Dennis
    Abstract:

    Cognitive emotion regulation (ER) pertains to the ability to change the way we attend to and experience emotional information and events. Older and younger adults, however, differ in the way that they attend to emotional information. Socioemotional Selective Theory (SST) suggests that as we age we become more adept at using cognitive ER strategies to reduce negative emotion because we have less time left in life. As a result of these motivational changes, a branch of SST, the positivity effect, proposes older versus younger adults attend to and remember more pleasant than unpleasant stimuli. Research that systematically examines different types of cognitive ER in controlled (reappraisal) and automatic (directed attention) contexts, using neurophysiological measures, has the potential to clarify the nature of the positivity effect. The present research capitalizes on the excellent temporal resolution of the late positive potential (LPP) which is sensitive to attention to emotion and the use of cognitive ER strategies: increasing emotional responses produces larger LPP amplitudes and decreasing smaller LPP amplitudes. Chapter one served to first evaluate whether cognitive ER impacts memory performance and if the LPP during a cognitive ER task was associated with memory performance in younger adults (N = 49). Subsequent research presented uses the LPP to understand whether younger (n = 49) and older adults (n =28) differ in: a) how they attend to emotional information during a passive viewing task (bottom-up); b) how they use two types of cognitive ER strategies, reappraisal (top-down) and directed attention (intermediary top-down); c) how cognitive ER strategies impact memory performance. Results highlight several important contributions to the cognitive ER and aging literature. First, in the initial study results showed that instructions to increase emotional responses to unpleasant stimuli results in larger LPP amplitudes as compared to viewing or decreasing emotional responses. Memory performance in the increase and view conditions was better than the decrease condition. Additionally, larger LPP amplitudes in the increase and decrease conditions were associated with better memory performance. Second, older adults showed sustained attention to emotional stimuli; however younger and older adults did not show preferential attention to unpleasant and pleasant stimuli (respectively). Third, younger and older adults did not differ in their ability to use reappraisal as measured via the LPP, but did show differences in LPP amplitudes on the directed attention task to unpleasant stimuli. Younger, but not older adults showed larger LPP amplitudes to unpleasant stimuli presented with an arousing versus non-arousing focus. Fourth, age differences in memory performance did not emerge; however stimuli presented with an arousing focus were remembered more than those with a non-arousing focus. Fifth, only larger LPP amplitudes to unpleasant stimuli in the decrease condition (relative to a neutral maintain) were associated with better memory performance for younger and older adults. Taken together results suggest that older versus younger adults may sustain processing of emotional stimuli and that age differences in cognitive ER may lie within bottom-up cognitive ER tasks as opposed to reappraisal. Results hold promise that the LPP may be a useful tool for examining other types of cognitive ER strategies in younger and older adults.

  • Couple Communication, Attachment Status and Relationship Satisfaction.

    Author:
    Rebecca Dell'Aglio
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Peter Fraenkel
    Abstract:

    Researchers have been working to understand how relationships begin, what makes them last, what the ingredients are for a satisfying relationship, and what predicts their dissolution. Adult attachment has been found to be associated with the formation, satisfaction, maintenance of, and communication within romantic relationships. The present study explores the associations among adult attachment, communication, and marital and premarital satisfaction. Most studies rely on an individual's self-report of his or her intimate relationship, while few base their conclusions on observations of relationship interaction. This study looks at specific, audiotaped, interactions between couples as well as self-reports of attachment style, communication style, and relationship satisfaction. There were a number of significant findings that indicate a relationship between couple communication, relationship satisfaction, and attachment status. In addition, there were replications of previous findings on couple communication, couple attachment, and relationship satisfaction. The majority of hypotheses were supported: relationship satisfaction was significantly linked to attachment status, positive aspects of communication were linked to women's attachment status, men's use of Support Validation was significantly related to their partners' attachment status, couple communication and relationship satisfaction were significantly related, and relationship satisfaction (specifically problem intensity) was significantly associated with couple communication. The present study evidences a connection between couples' intrapsychic attachment representations (as measured by self-reports) and their interpersonal relationship communication behavior (as observed using the IDCS). It makes a major contribution to the couple attachment literature by linking the intrapsychic sphere of attachment to the interpersonal sphere of communication behavior.

  • An Analysis of Social Referencing Stimulus Classes Among Children with Autism

    Author:
    Jaime DeQuinzio
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Claire Poulson
    Abstract:

    Social referencing consists of a child looking to the affective responses of an adult, which serve as discriminative stimuli for subsequent responding in the context of ambiguity or novelty. In this study, social referencing was defined as discriminative responding under a two-link chain. The discriminative stimulus for the first link was the presentation of experimental stimuli in the presence of which an observing response was required. Link 2 consisted of a conditional discrimination. The discriminative stimulus for the second link was an affective stimulus from one of two sets presented by the experimenter. Two experiments were conducted to teach children with autism to respond differentially to affective stimuli within the social referencing response chain, and to determine if differential responding generalized to similar stimuli. Experiment 1 attempted to evaluate discriminative responding to two sets of six affective stimuli in Link 2 of social referencing while participants encountered stimuli representing three types of tasks pictured in their activity schedules (i.e., handwriting, retrieving objects, and scripted social interaction). Because discriminative responding was not acquired by any of the three participants under that training paradigm, Experiment 2 was conducted. During this experiment, participants were seated at desks and were presented with stimuli that signaled social referencing. One affective stimulus from each of the two sets was used as the training stimulus. The remaining affective stimuli from the two sets were presented as probe stimuli to determine the extent to which each was part of an already established stimulus class. Participants were taught to engage in differential responding using manual guidance, differential reinforcement, and error correction. In the presence of an affective display from set 1 (e.g., smiling and nodding head), the correct response was a keep response in which the participants placed the stimuli in a bin on the desk. In the presence of an affective display from set 2 (e.g., shake head with eyebrows turned down), the correct response was a discard response in which the participants placed the stimuli in a garbage bin on the floor. Correct responding on training trials increased above baseline levels for all three participants with the systematic introduction of conditional discrimination training. Probe responding was inconsistent across the three participants, obviating analysis of stimulus class formation.

  • Sex Differences in Progestational Effects on Cocaine-induced Behaviors and Neural Plasticity

    Author:
    Samantha Diaz
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Vanya Quinones-Jenab
    Abstract:

    Both clinical and rodent models have shown sexually dimorphic patterns in all phases of drug use and addiction (acquisition, maintenance and relapse). These sexually dimorphic responses to psychostimulants are hypothesized to be due to ovarian hormones. Progesterone has been reported to attenuate many of the behaviors associated with cocaine, in females. Progesterone inhibited cocaine-induced locomotor responses in intact male and female rats. Although progesterone attenuated cocaine-induced behavioral responses, it failed to alter cocaine-induced neural plasticity. Progesterone increased dendritic spine densities in the shell and core of the Nucleus Accumbens (NAcS, NAcC) of male rats. Chronic cocaine increased dendritic spines in NAcC, NacS, CA1 region of the hippocampus. In our third experiment, administration of progesterone and finastesteride, an Allopregnalone antagonist, inhibited the expression of cocaine-induced CPP in female but not male rats. In conclusion, progesterone reduces cocaine-induced locomotor activity and learned associations in rats, without reducing neural plasticity.

  • Ambient Text and the Urban Environment

    Author:
    Rebio Diaz Cardona
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Setha Low
    Abstract:

    This dissertation explores the notion that texts become a key element in person-environment relations in the contemporary urban context. As we witness the rise of mobile communication and ubiquitous computing, there are more people spending more time using more text to do more things in more places. Texts of the most diverse styles, dimensions, and sources mediate people's relations with the environment and their activities in it. Drawing from observational work carried out in East Harlem/El Barrio in New York City, I consider texts as a type of `stuff' that we frequently encounter and enter in contact with on our way to encountering and entering in contact with other things in the urban environment. Texts are one of the means whereby the urban environment makes itself usable and available to us. Furthermore, in the contemporary context of technological change, texts become a basic means through which the network society (Castells, 1996, 2001) becomes visible, operable, tractable, and usable in the environment and in daily life. The central argument, then, is that our relationship to texts is being reconfigured by a number of emerging urban dynamics for which texts in turn do important work. Instead of the view that other media are driving attention away from text, I explore the alternative view that texts gain new relevance as a component of the urban environment and of the emerging network society. I look for the roots of this new relevance in three larger spatial processes: ubiquitous access to information and communication technologies, increased global mobility of populations, goods, and information, and the open, shared and participatory nature of the Internet and wireless communication. Texts are a key part of how the relationships between people, things and environments are re-spatialized in the contemporary context of global mobility and connectivity. In such context, text using becomes a key mode of engagement with environment, self, and others, while texts become a key urban infrastructure, supporting the hooking up of the space of flows and the space of places, and thus supporting the emergence of the network society.

  • The Effect of General-Case Training, Instructions, Feedback, and Rehearsal on the Acquisition of Music Sight-Reading by Advanced Flute Students

    Author:
    Nancy Dib
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Peter Sturmey
    Abstract:

    Sight-reading music enables the performance of music that has not been previously learned. Without sight-reading skills, required behavior (e.g., learning new work, performing new music, and passing musical exams) is equivalent to learning a piece of standard repertoire. Therefore, all students should learn to sight-read. To date, no research has been done on the use of applied behavior analysis for teaching students how to improve music sight-reading. Sight-reading may be more efficiently taught if it is approached by planning for generalization of music-related behavior in music education. Therefore, the current study taught advanced flute students to improve their sight-reading skills with a treatment package that included general-case training, instructions, feedback and rehearsal. This study used a multiple-baseline-across-subjects research design for three advanced flute students during their regular lessons. There was a systematic decrease in sight-reading errors as treatment was introduced across subjects. Note errors and rhythm errors decreased by an average of 10% and 42% respectively. Frequency of repetitions and hesitations decreased by an average of 7 and 2 respectively. Therefore, the training package was effective in improving music sight-reading. Future research should investigate the use of general-case training and/or behavioral skills training in other flute-playing behavior, as well as in the teaching of other instruments. Future research should also investigate the components of the current package individually to determine if they would be as effective separately.

  • Voicing Care: Discourse, identity and the making of family caregivers

    Author:
    Jennifer Dobbins
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Suzanne Ouellette
    Abstract:

    Caring for a loved one was once considered a family matter - invisible work nested within the private sphere of home. Current advances in medical technology, altered illness patterns, extended life spans, and changes in traditional family structure have rendered family caregiving increasingly visible. Psychological/ medical literatures on family caregivers have traditionally focused on caregiver stress, strain, and burden; however, people actually experience caring for loved ones as part of a lived life. Research tools and perspectives that reflect the embeddedness of caregiving in social life are urgently needed. This qualitative study is based on the construct of caregiver voice. Voice is the manifestation of a given orientation toward caregiving and is used to explore the ways in which family caregivers create/negotiate/ understand the caregiver role through their interactions with others. Three caregiver voices are discussed: Caregiver as Patient, Caregiver as Kin, and Caregiver as Advocate. Each voice represents a different conceptualization of the family caregiver as it emerges from the intersection of historical influences, social organization, cultural meaning and personal experience. Utilizing multiple read method (Brown, Debold, Tappan, and Gilligan, 1989) informed by positioning theory (Davies and Harré, 1990), the study explores the patterns and positionings of these three voices as they emerge through the exchanges of a virtual support group for family caregivers. Posts made by group participants over a 6-month period (N=138) are analyzed for levels of caregiver labeling and identity, and for the presence and prevalence of the three caregiver voices. Simple summary statistics are used to describe patterns of interaction between and across the voices. Finally, a conversational thread (an original post and eight responses to the post) is analyzed how the Patient, Kin and Advocate voices appear, disappear, overlap and counterbalance each other over the course of an exchange. Key findings are used to support voice as a useful construct in the study of family caregiving, and the utility of positioning theory combined with multiple read method in the examination of caregiver narratives. Implications for future research are discussed.

  • MyDigitalFootprint.ORG: Young People and the Proprietary Ecology of Everyday Data

    Author:
    Gregory Donovan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Cindi Katz
    Abstract:

    Young people are the canaries in our contemporary data mine. They are at the forefront of complex negotiations over privacy, property, and security in environments saturated with information systems. The productive and entertaining promises of proprietary media have led to widespread adoption among youth whose daily activities now generate troves of data that are mined for governance and profit. As they text, email, network, and search within these proprietary ecologies, young people's identity configurations link up with modes of capitalist production. The MyDigitalFootprint.ORG Project was thus initiated to unpack and engage young people's material social relations with/in proprietary ecologies through participatory action design research. The project began by interviewing New Yorkers ages 14-19. Five of these interviewees then participated as co-researchers in a Youth Design and Research Collective (YDRC) to analyze interview findings through the collaborative design of an open source social network. In taking a medium as our method, co-researchers took on the role of social network producers and gained new perspectives otherwise mystified to consumers. Considering my work with the YDRC I argue that involving youth in designing information ecologies fosters critical capacities for participating in acts of research and knowledge production. More critical participation in these ecologies, even proprietary ones, is necessary for opening opaque aspects of our environment and orienting data circulation toward more equitable and just ends.

  • Measuring Relational Preferences Within an Equivalence Class

    Author:
    Erica Doran
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Lanny Fields
    Abstract:

    Two experiments used post-class formation within-class relational assessment test performances to evaluate whether participants demonstrated preference for certain members of an equivalence class based on the type of relation that existed between class members. This research also examined certain procedural factors that influenced the percentage of participants who formed classes, referred to as yield. In Experiment 1, two 5-node 7-member equivalence classes, consisting entirely of nonsense syllables, were established using the simultaneous protocol. After class formation, the effects of the different relations between stimuli were evaluated using within-class relational assessment tests. Only one of the six participants in Experiment 1 successfully formed classes, but that one participant showed an absolute preference for transitive relations over equivalence ones, and for baseline relations over symmetrical ones. Experiment 2 was identical to Experiment 1, except that one of the nonsense syllable stimuli in each class was replaced by a pictorial stimulus. Under these conditions, class formation was enhanced, with classes being formed by 5 of 13 participants. During the relational assessment tests, each of these participants demonstrated essentially complete preferences for transitive relations over equivalence relations and for trained baseline relations over symmetrical relations. Thus, this research demonstrates that the members of equivalence classes are differentially related to each other based on relational type.