Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Cognitive Inefficiencies in Adolescents with Eating Disorders
Eating Disorders (ED) are notoriously difficult to treat due, in part, to commonly observed inefficiencies in cognitive flexibility and central coherence, which are believed to maintain disordered cognitions and behaviours and negatively impact prognosis. Cognitive remediation therapy (CRT) has recently been used effectively with adults with ED; however, evidence among adolescents is limited. The present study explored change in flexibility and central coherence in a group of 23 adolescent ED inpatients (M = 16 years, SD = 0.95). All participants received a comparable dose of ED treatment. Participants were split into two groups for comparison: the CRT group (n = 15) received CRT in addition to TAU; and a TAU group for control (TAU; n = 8). Improvements in flexibility and central coherence were superior in the CRT group, suggesting that CRT is a potentially useful treatment for adolescents with AN as part of an overall psychosocial rehabilitation program. Author Keywords: anorexia nervosa, central coherence, cognitive flexibility, cognitive remediation, eating disorders, set shifting
An Emergent Model of the Return to Learn Process for Adolescents with Prolonged Concussion
Current literature on concussion management focuses primarily on the return to physical activity, while the return to learn process is less clearly understood. This knowledge gap is particularly problematic for adolescents, whose primary responsibility is academics. The present study sought to develop a more in-depth understanding of the return to learn process through the perspectives of adolescents who had sustained a concussion and their parents in in-person, semi-structured interviews. A substantive grounded theory of the return to learn process for adolescents that emerged from the data is provided. The basic model is consistent with many speculative, non-empirically based concussion management protocols, but extends these models by emphasizing the central role of parents in managing their child’s recovery process, highlighting the importance of role fulfillment within the concussion management network, and identifying the impact of the adolescent’s capacity and readiness for help-seeking. The results also highlight the vulnerability of concussed adolescents to losing their support structure as they move through key school transitions. Implications for educators, medical professionals, parents, and adolescents in the return to learn process are also discussed. Author Keywords: Adolescent, Concussion, Concussion Management, Multidisciplinary Management, Return to Learn, Return to School
Is semantics activated automatically? Evidence from the PRP paradigm
Three experiments examined whether semantics is activated automatically by testing whether Arabic digits (e.g., 4), number words (e.g., four), and non-number words (e.g., rat) activate semantics in the absence of central attention within the Psychological Refractory Period (PRP) paradigm. In all three experiments, subjects performed colour discriminations as Task 1. In Task 2, subjects performed magnitude comparisons on digits (Experiment 1) and number words (Experiment 2) and size comparisons on animal words (Experiment 3). Task overlap was controlled by varying stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA). A distance effect arose in Task 2 and yielded underadditive effects with decreasing SOA for both digits and number words, consistent with these notations activating semantics in the absence of central attention, or automatically. A distance effect also arose for animal words, but it was additive with SOA, inconsistent with non-number words activating semantics automatically. Author Keywords: Automaticity, Central attention, Dual-task, Numerical cognition, Semantics, Word recognition
What’s the trouble with women? Fostering female engagement in substance abuse programming
Although Canada’s healthcare system is designed for everyone to access services regardless of the person’s gender, age, or income, there are significant barriers for individuals accessing substance abuse services that live in areas outside of urban centres (Adbool, et al., 2017; Hardill, 2011). Women are particularly stigmatized by the lack of anonymity in smaller communities and often avoid engaging in substance abuse programs (Ashley, Marsden, & Thomas, 2003). The aim of the current thesis was to explore RedPath, a grassroots initiative in Port Hope, Ontario, geared to engaging individuals and encourage them to participate in substance abuse programming. This initiative employs a member from the community, called an Activator, who is tasked with engaging their peers. A qualitative study was conducted to explore the role of a hired RedPath Activator in facilitating access of female community members with substance abuse issues to services in the Port Hope community. Her role in supporting women was a specific interest, as the selection of a female Activator was a strategy to support the engagement of women to the program. The data was analyzed using a thematic content analysis approach. The most significant of these themes were (1) barriers and challenges in the community and (2) building trust to facilitate engagement and maintain attendance in the program. Author Keywords: activator, community, mental health, substance abuse, woman, women
Assessing Emotion Processing Deficits in Youth
It is well-established that alexithymia in adulthood is a critical risk factor for numerous negative mental health and well-being outcomes. Although this area of research has begun to receive interest in earlier developmental stages, significant methodological limitations have been noted with current measures of alexithymia for adolescence. As such, the aim of the current thesis was to provide empirical evidence on the psychometric strength of a new adolescent measure of alexithymia, the Toronto Alexithymia Scale – Adolescent Version (TAS-A). Study 1 examined the construct validity of the TAS-A in relation to self and informant reported emotional intelligence (EI), while study 2 examined the predictive validity of the TAS-A in relation to adolescent problematic gambling and academic achievement. Adolescents completed self-reports of alexithymia, EI, and gambling behaviour, parents completed informant reports regarding their child’s EI, and academic records were obtained. Confirmatory factor analyses revealed significant relationships between adolescent alexithymia, and self and informant reported EI, indicating significant overlap in constructs. Adolescent alexithymia was also shown to be a significant predictor of problematic gambling and academic achievement; however, some interesting gender differences were observed (a pattern of results reported consistently in the adult alexithymia literature). Results are discussed in terms of methodological and clinical implications during the vulnerable developmental transition of adolescence. Author Keywords: adolescence, alexithymia, psychometrics
Context Fear Memory
Distributing contextual fear episodes makes the memory become HPC-independent, meaning increasingly reliant on non-HPC memory structures. It is unclear, however, whether distribution of the conditioning episodes alone is sufficient or whether a combination of distribution and high conditioning saliency is necessary to make the memory become HPC-independent. To resolve this issue, rats were trained using a distributed contextual fear conditioning protocol in which foot-shocks were manipulated to create a low (0.4mA), intermediate (0.7 mA) and high (1.0 mA) saliency condition. This thesis also aimed to determine brain structures supporting the HPC-independent memory by assessing retention-induced c-fos expression in the basolateral- amygdala, perirhinal and anterior cingulate cortices. The results suggest that HPC lesion rats in the high saliency condition displayed similar level of freezing as control rats, indicating “strongly salient” and distributed episodes creates a HPC independent memory. c-fos expression suggests together, an increased context representation in the perirhinal and anterior cingulate cortices and a strengthened fear representation in the basolateral-amygdala supports the HPC-independent memory. Author Keywords: context fear memory, distributed reinstatements, hippocampus, IEG, rat, saliency
Altered Hippocampal Regulation of Immediate Early Genes after Pentylenetetrazol-Induced Seizures
Seizures induce long-term changes in gene expression in the hippocampus. Experimental evidence has demonstrated a significant effect of epileptic activity on the activity of neurons that participate in complex cognitive and behavioural processes. The present series of experiments involving kindling with subconvulsive doses of PTZ demonstrates a link between seizures and altered immediate early gene expression within the hippocampus and dentate gyrus. In addition, newborn hippocampal neurons were shown to have decreased induction of plasticity-related genes, suggesting deficits in activity-dependent recruitment. These findings may shed light on the mechanisms underlying epileptogenesis and epilepsy-related hippocampal dysfunction in human patients. Author Keywords: hippocampus, IEGs, kindling, neurogenesis, seizures
Sextual Consent
The purpose of the current study was to explore the relationships between sexting, perceptions of sexual consent, and nonconsensual sexual experiences (NSEs). Participants consisted of 100 community members and 851 undergraduate students enrolled at Trent University. It was found that males were more likely than females to interpret ambiguous sexual scenarios as consensual, but consent perceptions were not influenced by sexting. When examining past personal experiences, males interpreted received sext messages as an indicator of consent significantly more than females, while females were more likely to interpret received messages as more harassing. NSEs were significantly related to sexting behaviours: those who engage in sexting were more likely to also have experienced a NSE, and 20.5% of participants in the current study reported having experienced a NSE with a consensual sexting partner. The current study has important implications for the future of sexting research, practice, and policy. Author Keywords: nonconsensual sexual experiences, sexting, sexual assault, sexual consent, sexual harassment
Sexting and Satisfaction
Sexting was explored in relation to cohabitation status, general and sexual communication, as well as the anxious and avoidant dimensions of attachment. The present study was focused the distinction between lifetime and recent sexting, in an attempt to more accurately assess the relationships between the examined factors and sexting behaviours. Individuals in long-distance relationships were more likely to report recently sexting and engaged more frequently than those in cohabitating relationships, but did not differ in their levels of sexual satisfaction. Recent sexters reported higher levels of sexual communication compared to lifetime sexters, and sexual communication was positively, though weakly, correlated with sexting frequency. The present study was unable to support a predictive relationship between recent sexting and levels of attachment anxiety or avoidance. These results highlight the importance of exploring the context in which sexting occurs, as well as distinguishing between lifetime and recent sexters in future sexting research. Author Keywords: Attachment, Long Distance Relationship, Recent Sexting, Satisfaction, Sexting, Sexual Communication
Executive Function, Emotion Regulation, and Social Problem Solving, in Adolescence and Early Adulthood
Research to date on social problem solving typically focuses on elementary school aged children. However, adolescents and young adults may experience more novel and emotionally complex social conflicts that require different skills to navigate them successfully. Previous research has highlighted executive function (EF) and emotion regulation as possible skills that help with social problem solving. The current study examined the potential relation between EF, emotion regulation, and social problem solving. The sample consisted of 174 participants with a mean age of 19.60 years. Results showed that the shifting component of EF was associated with being able to take different perspectives when coming up with a solution for a social conflict involving a romantic partner. Additionally, emotion regulation was associate with perspective taking in the overall social problem solving process with a romantic partner. These results suggest that both EF and emotion regulation are involved in the ability to take different perspectives during a social conflict in this age range. Author Keywords: Emotion Regulation, Executive Function, Social Problem Solving
Money for Nothing
The strong relationship between poverty and poor health has been well-established for millennia; however, the mechanisms through which this relationship manifests are only recently becoming understood. Perceptions of relative wealth and status, chronic stress, and immunodeficiencies are implicated in recent research studying the social determinants of health. The purpose of the current study is to access the detailed and contextualized perceptions of these relationships and contribute evidence-based policy suggestions to improve the health of the Canadian population. A qualitative approach was employed to provide a unique perspective in addressing the concerns identified within the literature, and fifteen semi-structured interviews with relevant experts were conducted and evaluated using a Content Analysis. The results of the current study suggested a consensus among the participants with regards to the income-related social factors which determine poor health outcomes. A basic income was also perceived to moderate these mechanisms to a certain degree, but was not considered the most effective policy solution. Emulating the progressive tax policies of more economically equal countries was the preferred approach to addressing the issues of poverty and poor health in Canada (though a basic income was not excluded as a potential subsection of these policies). A lack of political will was perceived to be one of the primary obstacles preventing such policies from coming into practice, and it was the conclusion of this paper that virtuous and knowledgeable political leaders are a necessity in the successful pursuit of improving the health of the Canadian people. Author Keywords:
Who Cares? Examining associations between caregiving sensitivity and parent-peer attachment
Although years of research have established that attachment representations are not consistently transmitted from parent to child (also known as the transmission gap), the reasons for this gap remain relatively unknown. This transmission gap exists between parents and peers as well. The purpose of this thesis was to examine the role of caregiving sensitivity in the relationship between parent attachment and peer attachment and to test if caregiving sensitivity helps explains the relationship between parent attachment and peer attachment. This study found support for the transmission of attachment from parent to peers, but not that caregiving sensitivity explains this transmission. Results indicate that parenting caregiving sensitivity questionnaires are inconsistent in assessing the construct of sensitivity. Parenting caregiving sensitivity questionnaires also do not measure the same concepts as peer caregiving sensitivity questionnaires. These findings suggest that assessing caregiving sensitivity in parents differently may help close the transmission gap. Author Keywords: attachment, caregiving, parenting, peer, sensitivity


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