Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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
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
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
Emotional Intelligence and Bullying Victimization
Previous research has found that bullying and victimization is related to poor socioemotional competencies. The present study examined the relationship between emotional intelligence (EI) and bullying and victimization in a large community-based sample of adolescents. Specifically, we explored the EI of bullies, victims, bully-victims, and those uninvolved. We also examined whether the relationship between EI and types of bullying and victimization activities were consistent across age and gender. We found that stress management and interpersonal skills are important EI dimensions to predicting both bullying and victimization. Moreover, intrapersonal skills were predictive of boys’ bullying behaviours and adaptability was the strongest EI dimension in bullies and victims. Age did not contribute much to the overall prediction of bullying and victimization in either gender. Results are discussed in terms of future implications regarding anti-bullying interventions. Author Keywords: Adolescents, age, Bullying, Emotional Intelligence, gender, social emotional competencies
Social Communicative Factors as Predictors of Symptom Severity in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), while providing many benefits, presents challenges to clinicians such as predicting the stability of symptoms. Accurately predicting symptom severity allows clinicians to confidently diagnose and assign the most appropriate treatment. Little research exists to date to predict symptom severity in children with ASD who have not been exposed to treatment. The present file review examined prelinguistic skills as predictors of symptom severity in a group of young children (age: 18 – 64 months) with ASD (n = 199) who had not been exposed to significant levels of treatment. Hierarchical regression analyses demonstrated that of the two core diagnostic features (social communicative deficits and restricted repetitive behaviours), social communicative skills best predicted symptom severity. Furthermore, social communicative gestures predicted symptom severity after age, adaptive behaviour, restricted repetitive behaviours, and functional gestures had been accounted for. Author Keywords: autism, gestures, predictors, prelinguistic, social communicative, symptom severity
Cognitive and Affective Theory of Mind in Children and Young Adolescents
Recently, a distinction has been made between cognitive theory of mind, the ability to make inferences about other's beliefs and thoughts, and affective theory of mind, the ability to make inferences about other's emotional states. The purpose of this study is to determine if the distinction between cognitive and affective theory of mind is developmentally appropriate and whether the relation between language and theory of mind is maintained when cognitive and affective theory of mind are examined separately. The sample consisted of 20 children aged 6 to 9 years, and 27 children aged 11 to 15 years. Results showed that the older group outperformed the younger group on both cognitive and affective theory of mind, and that different aspects of language were related to each type of theory of mind. This suggests the distinction between cognitive and affective theory of mind may in fact be valid in this age range. Author Keywords: Affective Theory of Mind, Cognitive Theory of Mind, Development, Language
Kiss and tell
It has been proposed that individuals often form a romantic attachment to their sexual partners. However, there is little understanding of the role of sexual behaviours in an attachment relationship. This study aims to explore the effect of attachment representations on sexual behaviours during foreplay, intercourse, and afterplay. In two studies, individuals (N = 478) and couples (N = 50) completed self-reported measures of attachment, sexual behaviours, and sexual satisfaction. As expected, security predicted various behaviours during each part of a sexual encounter and greater sexual satisfaction. Insecurity (preoccupied, dismissing, and fearful attachment) predicted engagement in post-coital behaviours – bonding efforts as well as seeking extrinsic rewards and experiencing body worries. Fearful attachment predicted less sexual satisfaction, while preoccupied attachment unexpectedly predicted greater sexual satisfaction. These findings provide support for the associations between individual attachment styles and sexual behaviours and suggest the implications of sexual behaviours on intimate needs within relationships. Author Keywords: afterplay, attachment, foreplay, relationships, sexuality, sexual satisfaction
Help Wanted
The purpose of this thesis was to explore the role of attachment in university students’ help-seeking process using both a cross-sectional and mixed methods study. In the cross-sectional study, I explored whether help-seeking attitudes mediated the relationship between attachment and help-seeking behaviour. As expected, the relationship between secure and preoccupied attachment and greater help-seeking behaviour from both informal and self-help sources was partially mediated by positive attitudes toward seeking non-professional personal help. However, unexpectedly, attitudes toward professional psychological help did not mediate the relationship between attachment and formal help-seeking behaviour. In the mixed-methods study, secure students reported positive help-seeking experiences and discussed facilitators of help-seeking. On the other hand, fearful and dismissing students reported more negative help-seeking experiences and discussed barriers to help-seeking. Discussion of findings focus on how university staff can use attachment theory to develop interventions to increase student help-seeking. Author Keywords: Attachment, attitudes, Help-seeking, Relationships, Transitions, University students
War and Peace
The relationship between siblings is unique in both its history and duration across the lifespan. Previous relationship researchers have examined siblings in childhood, but few have explored this distinctive relationship in adulthood. In this study, the adult sibling relationship was explored from an attachment perspective to determine the effect of an individual's attachment on conflict and collaboration with siblings. As expected, secure attachment predicted negative associations with conflict and positive associations with collaboration whereas insecure attachment (fearful, preoccupied, and dismissing) predicted opposite patterns. Results were compared to the abundance of literature on romantic relationships and findings from this study provided support for the theory that siblings function as attachment figures in adulthood. Author Keywords: Attachment, Collaboration, Conflict, Relationships, Romantic partners, Siblings
Talking it out
The literature to date that investigates the development of social perspective taking in children primarily focuses on preschool aged children. These studies provide evidence that implicates language as being crucial for social perspective taking in young children but less is known about the importance of language to social perspective taking during middle childhood and early adolescence. The current study uses Selman's theory of socio-cognitive development to investigate the maturation of social perspective taking and the importance of language to social problem solving in 8 year olds (n = 111) and 12 year olds (n = 112). Analysis of variance and scalogram analysis shows a developmental progression of social perspective taking across the social problem solving process. Children may be able to demonstrate reciprocal perspective taking when generating strategies before they are able to demonstrate reciprocal perspective taking for other steps of social problem solving. Flexibility in interpersonal orientation is shown to be a predictor of social problem solving ability. Correlations and multiple regression analysis demonstrate that language is important to overall social problem solving but that the role of semantic and syntactic language may differ at age 8 compared to age 12. Author Keywords: interpersonal orientation, language, Selman, social cognition, social perspective taking, social problem solving

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