Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Problem-Solving and Cognitive Flexibility in Older Adolescents and Young Adults
Ill-structured problems have changing components that solvers need to adapt their solutions to. Well-structured problems have strict, well-defined procedures, and solvers must know which procedures to apply and when. Research has suggested that these two types of problems utilize different problem-solving skills. The current study focused on the relation between ill-structured interpersonal problem solving, novel well-structured problem-solving, and cognitive flexibility in young adults and older adolescents. It was predicted that because of the changing components of ill-structured problems, cognitive flexibility would more strongly predict these compared to well-structured problems. The current study sample consisted of 73 undergraduates with an average age of 20.43 years. The results showed that cognitive flexibility is equally associated with ill-structured problem-solving and well-structured problem-solving. This suggests that cognitive flexibility may support the perspective coordination involved in solving ill-structured problems and that cognitive flexibility may support switching between search strategies when solving a novel well-structured problem. Author Keywords: adolescent, adult, cognitive flexibility, ill-structured problem-solving, novel problems, well-structured problem-solving
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
Scripted Sexual Beliefs and Behaviours
Sexual script theory suggests that sexual behaviours have social meaning, and that individuals perceive certain behaviours as normative and expected. Previous research has indicated that there is a common belief in a cultural sexual script for (hetero)sexual behaviour sequences (CSSHS). Study 1 compared perceived norms with behaviours in first ever penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) sex events, as well as first and recent events with most recent partners. Many participants reported the CSSHS as typical, but few reported personal experiences that followed the CSSHS. Script adherence was not strongly related to physical pleasure. Study 2 found that committed relationships predicted greater female pleasure in first ever PVI sex. This link was mediated by communication during sexual activity. Results are discussed in the context of sexual script theory. Findings suggest that common scripted assumptions regarding PVI sex events should be reviewed for their value and representation of norms. Author Keywords: female pleasure, first sexual experiences, penile-vaginal intercourse, perceived norms, sexual behaviours, sexual script theory
Are We All on the Spectrum? Assessing Autistic Traits in the HEXACO Personality Framework
Autistic traits are characterized by difficulties with socialization, preference for order, and rigid and repetitive behaviour patterns. This study evaluated the psychometric properties of two measures of autistic traits, the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) and the Sub-threshold Autistic Trait Questionnaire (SATQ), and their associations with the HEXACO personality framework. The relationships between self-objectification, Need for Cognition (NFC), and autistic traits were also examined. In a student sample (N = 294), autistic traits were found to be negatively related to eXtraversion, but unrelated to self-objectification and NFC. However, individual subscales of the SATQ and AQ revealed different personality profiles, suggesting a non-unitary composition of the autistic trait measures. The AQ’s subscales failed to be represented in its factor structure. Intercorrelations between SATQ and AQ subscales showed that some subscales were uncorrelated with others. These concerns challenge whether autistic traits should be considered as a downwards extrapolation of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Author Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Autistic Traits, HEXACO, Need for Cognition, Self-Objectification
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
Asserting sexual (dis)interest
Sexual assertiveness encompasses skills in refusing unwanted sexual situations and bringing about wanted sexual situations. Measures of sexual assertiveness typically assess both refusal and initiation aspects, yet there is a dearth of research examining these skills in relation to one another. The present study examined the relationship between these skillsets in women, exploring predictors of each. Initiation and refusal assertiveness were moderately correlated. Additionally, the relationship between them was not entirely explained by general assertiveness, indicating that there is something unique to assertiveness in the sexual context. Committed relationship context and erotophilic disposition specifically predicted initiation assertiveness. Less endorsement of the sexual double standard and fewer approach motivations for engaging in unwanted sex specifically predicted refusal assertiveness. Few differences emerged in predictors of assertiveness types when comparing sexual orientation groups, yet non-heterosexual women reported slightly lower levels of refusal assertiveness. Implications for sexual education, therapy, and future research are discussed. Author Keywords: sexual assertiveness, sexual autonomy, sexual compliance, sexual double standard, sexual satisfaction, sexual self-disclosure
Sweat it out
Many consumers purchase sweatshop products, despite the hazardous conditions for workers. The psychological factors that influence (un) ethical garment purchasing are not well understood. Two studies explored consumers’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour. University students (Study 1; N = 130) said they would pay more for ethically-labelled garments, particularly students who were community and future-orientated. Importantly, most students were unaware of where to purchase ethical garments. In Study 2, female undergraduate students (N = 74) were randomly assigned to read about a sweatshop collapse or garment care. Students who read about the disaster chose more ‘sweatshop-free’ garments in a virtual shopping task. All students spent similarly (clothes, accessories, and in general) in the week following the experiment, however. Students may buy ethically-made garments if clearly labelled, but sweatshop information in the media may not affect consumer behaviour. Changes in public policy and education about the human costs of overconsumption are needed. Author Keywords: Decision making, Ethical garments, Ethical purchasing, Materialism, Overconsumption
Relationship between Virginity Scripts and Precoital Sexual Behaviour
Past research has examined the influence of cultural scripts on our first coital experience, but the impact of virginity scripts on precoital sexual behaviour remains unknown. The purpose of this study sought to examine the link between Carpenter’s (2001) cognitive frameworks of virginity and precoital sexual behaviour. Two hundred and forty eight participants (32 men, 215 women, and one unknown) were recruited from a Canadian university, all of whom had experienced precoital behaviour and first sexual intercourse. The findings indicated that past precoital behaviour and coital behaviour with first sexual partner had different relationship patterns with respect to virginity scripts. Virginity scripts were also related to current sexual sensation seeking, motivation for erotic arousal, sexual compatibility, comfort with sexuality, and approach to sexual relationships. Author Keywords: precoital sexual behaviour, sexual scripts, virginity frameworks, virginity loss
Marital Satisfaction Throughout the Journey of Weight-Loss Surgery
A mixed-methods’ approach was designed to explore the marital impacts following weight-loss surgery (WLS). In Phase 1, ten individual interviews with spouses of five couples were conducted; two of the couples had the wives preparing for WLS, two of the couples consisted of wives who had WLS, and one couple had both received the surgery. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using a combination of interpretive phenomenological and grounded theory techniques. Findings demonstrated that WLS does have impacts on marriage regardless of where couples are in their journey. All couples discussed food as a possible source of conflict in their relationship. Interviews also reveled that self-esteem is a major factor contributing to their relationship and support is necessary throughout. In Phase 2 an online survey was developed to quantitatively explore the important constructs deemed important from the participants in Phase 1. Relationships between relationship satisfaction, sexual conflict, self-esteem, depression and body image were examined in 54 participants. Results demonstrate that higher levels of support and self-esteem and lower sexual conflict relate to a more satisfactory relationship in individuals post- WLS. Author Keywords: marital satsifaction, mixed-methods, qualitative, relationship satisfaction, weight-loss, Weight-loss surgery
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
Sexual consent
How one identifies their nonconsensual sexual experiences (NSE) and cognitively integrates the experience into their sexual schemas may affect how individuals perceive and negotiate sexual consent. Previous research has demonstrated that both the method of quantifying NSEs and the labels used to describe NSEs yield different results in psychosexual outcomes associated with NSEs. The current study assessed differences in subjectively and behaviourally quantified NSEs, as well as the role of cognitive and affective appraisals of sexuality and sexual interactions, on sexual consent attitudes. While behaviourally measured NSE history did not significantly influence sexual consent attitudes, the subjective identification of NSEs with various labels did influence attitudes toward sexual consent. Cognitive appraisals of rape and affective appraisals of sexuality also significantly predicted sexual consent attitudes. Implications for future research and NSE prevention are discussed. Keywords: Nonconsensual sexual experiences, sexual consent, quantifying NSEs, affective sexuality, cognitive sexuality Author Keywords: identification, nonconsensual sexual experiences, rape, sexual affectivity, sexual assault, sexual consent
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


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