Graduate Theses & Dissertations


Developing Social-Emotional Competencies in Youth
Trait Emotional Intelligence (TEI) plays an important role in the health and wellness of children and adolescents. Not surprisingly, the literature on TEI and youth has expanded dramatically. Although the quality of this work continues to be uneven due to the continued proliferation of TEI-related measures with questionable psychometric features. One over-looked TEI measure in the field is the short form developed for the Emotional Quotient Inventory Youth Version (EQ-i:YV-S). The core goal of Study 1 was to examine the overall reliability and validity of the EQ-i:YV-S. The aim of Study 2 was to evaluate the utility of the EQ-i:YV-S as a measure of the effectiveness of a new school-based social and emotional learning program for elementary school students. Results from Study 1 demonstrated that the EQ-i:YV-S had good internal reliability, 6-month test-retest reliability, and convergent validity. Study 2 found that Total EI and most key EI-related dimensions had significant improvement from pretest to post test on the EQ-i:YV-S. These findings have important implications for TEI measurement in youth and the effectiveness of school-based psychoeducational programming for TEI, with the EQ-i:YV-S as a viable option for research in this area. Author Keywords: emotional intelligence, psychoeducational programming, social-emotional competencies
Individual Differences in Human Tolerance for Wildlife and The Role of Nature Relatedness
Human-wildlife interactions are inevitable and lead to decisions about wildlife. The current research investigated what demographic and psychological factors influence decisions in wildlife management. Also, a new measure, the Tolerance for Wildlife Scale, was developed. A student sample (n = 329) and a community sample (n = 213) completed measures on their nature relatedness, environmental concern, and emotions towards wildlife. They completed the Tolerance for Wildlife Scale and rated decisions to use lethal or non-lethal action in nine human-wildlife scenarios. Correlation analyses revealed people who are more tolerant towards wildlife are more connected with nature, concerned for the environment, feel positive emotions towards wildlife, and are more likely to choose non-lethal management actions. ANOVAs revealed that location and occupation have an impact on tolerance for wildlife. By identifying factors that influence tolerance for wildlife, humans can hope to share space with wildlife and foster coexistence. Author Keywords: emotion, environmental concern, nature relatedness, tolerance, wildlife, wolves
Evidence of an Interaction Between Memory Stores for Long-Term Context Fear Memory in the Rat
Memories which typically require the hippocampus (HPC) can become represented in structures outside of the HPC, and therefore resistant to HPC damage, but, the properties of these memories are poorly understood. Some research has suggested that the HPC continually contributes to memories that are resistant to hippocampal damage, and without this support, they are weaker and more susceptible to loss. However, this hypothesis has yet to be tested experimentally. We examined this possibility in rats by assessing decay and extinction of a context fear memory that had become independent of the HPC via repeated learning episodes. We found that HPC-independent context fear memories decay and extinguish faster without continued HPC support, suggesting that the HPC plays a continued role in long-term memory. We also provide new evidence of a persistent interaction between the HPC and other memory systems, which strengthens non-HPC representations so that they withstand HPC damage at longer intervals. Author Keywords: consolidation, context fear, hippocampus, memory, retrograde amnesia
Peers, Props & Play
This study examined the relation between complexity of pretend play during preschool and early academic skills two years later. Preschool children (n =19), aged 3 years, were observed during self-directed free play, which was then coded for complexity of symbolic thought with respect to symbolic agent (ability to direct self or other’s play) and symbolic substitution (abstractness of props). Children’s literacy and numeracy skills were assessed concurrently and two years later when children were 5 years old. We found that children who directed others' play compared to children who focused on their own play had higher mathematics achievement at 5 years. In addition, children who engaged in more complex object substitutions (abstract props) had better counting at 3 years and better early reading skills at 5 years than their peers, who showed few complex substitutions. Our findings suggest that encouraging specific aspects of pretend play in preschool could be a relatively simple way to promote early academic achievement. Author Keywords: Math , Play complexity, Preschool , Pretend Play, Reading
Calming Chaos in the Classroom
Physical activity and classroom design changes are beneficial means to reduce stress, and enhance well-being. Results across some studies however, are mixed. Shanker Self-Reg™ supports the use of physical equipment and design as a means of managing arousal and tension levels. Previous research lacks rich description of educators’ understanding of equipment and design, Self-Reg, and how this understanding affects the way it is implemented. In the current study, educators’ understanding of Self-Reg, how this understanding influenced educators’ approach to the school environment, and if one workshop was enough to inspire individuals to adopt a Self-Reg approach were explored using thematic analysis. Participants included educators from schools with beginner and intermediate-level experience in Self-Reg. The analysis produced eight themes and 8 sub-themes. Participants’ knowledge of Self-Reg influenced their approach to their environments. Although one workshop may have inspired interest in the framework, it was not enough to shift educators’ current practice. Author Keywords: Arousal, Classroom, Self-Reg, Self-regulation, Stress, Teachers
Endocannabinoid Treatment for the Behavioural and Histopathological Alterations of Epilepsy
Epilepsy is associated with a variety of cognitive, emotional, and pain-related symptoms, such as impaired memory and learning, increased risk of anxiety and depression, and increased pain sensitivity. Unfortunately, these symptoms are generally untreated with typical pharmacological interventions, which tend to target seizure activity (i.e., ictogenesis) and not the subsequent histopathological and behavioural alterations resulting from epilepsy (i.e., epileptogenesis). Evidence has demonstrated that targeting the endocannabinoid system can alleviate seizure symptoms as well as cognitive, emotional, and pain-related impairments independent of epilepsy. However, research examining the use of endocannabinoid-based treatment for these behavioural symptoms when they are associated with epilepsy is sparse. In the following thesis, two animal models of epilepsy, several behavioural assessments, and immunohistochemical techniques are utilized to assess the effectiveness of endocannabinoid-based treatment for epilepsy’s interictal symptoms. The findings expand our knowledge and offer encouraging evidence for the usefulness of endocannabinoid-based treatment as an epileptogenesis-targeting pharmacological intervention. Author Keywords: animal models, endocannabinoid system, histopathological alterations, interictal symptoms, temporal lobe epilepsy, treatment
Unbridled Potential
Recently, equine assisted learning (EAL) has emerged as a novel approach to building resiliency competencies in at-risk youth. This mixed-methods study presents evaluation results for an 8-week community-based EAL program with 83 young women (age 13-18 years) with a history of interpersonal trauma. Analyses examined changes in self-reported mental health symptoms (posttraumatic, depression) and resiliency factors (sense of mastery, sense of relatedness, emotion regulation) from pre- to post-test and at 1-month and 6-month follow-ups. Changes in outcomes were also correlated with intervention processes (attendance, session ratings) to see if program experiences were associated with differential outcomes. Results showed that EAL has potential in improving resiliency outcomes, at least for those participants who derived greater satisfaction and value from the sessions. Many improvements were sustained over the long term. Participants’ qualitative feedback provided insight into their subjective experiences and highlighted the unique role that horses played in the EAL process. Author Keywords: Emotion Regulation, Equine Assisted Learning, Experiential Learning, Resilience, Sense of Mastery, Sense of Relatedness
Drink my beer, smoke my weed, my good friends are all I need
Past research has predominately supported an association between insecure attachment and substance use. More recent research has found that while individuals with secure attachment may use substances, they do so with less risk. The current study attempted to replicate the finding regarding secure attachment and substance use and examined the motivational drives behind why students use substances. A total of 318 undergraduate students completed self-report questionnaires examining peer attachment, alcohol and marijuana use, as well as motivations for use. Results indicated that students who reported low frequency use of alcohol or marijuana did not have significantly higher security ratings compared to students who reported increased use. Additionally, although hypothesized, secure attachment ratings were not associated with social facilitation or enhancement motivations. However, fearful and dismissing attachment ratings were both significantly associated with coping motives as predicted, while preoccupied and fearful attachment ratings were significantly associated with conformity motives. Lastly, results from multiple regressions suggest that coping and enhancement motivations are significant predictors of alcohol use, while enhancement motivations are marginally significant in predicting marijuana use. Author Keywords: alcohol, attachment, marijuana, motivation
Women's Lived Experience of Risk in Pregnancy
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention, treatment and outcomes in women remain largely inequitable globally. Unique sex-specific stages of life, including pregnancy conditions, and their influence on cardiac risk is a growing area of research (Norris et al., 2020). For example, preeclampsia is strongly associated with CVD risk. This connection has led to prevention interventions such as postpartum risk clinics. Research to date on pregnancy and chronic disease is rooted in the medical paradigm of risk and lacks women’s lived experience. The present study qualitatively explored illness and risk perceptions of women with risky pregnancy conditions. Some participants felt self-blame for their conditions. Consequences and severity were focused on “baby first”, while maternal risk was viewed in the distant future. Aspects of the pregnancy experience, including prompt access to mental health support, was viewed as a “blessing in disguise”. Risks, such as lack of agency, and benefits of healthcare risk communication and intervention and implications for practice were also explored. Author Keywords: communication, critical, health care, phenomenology, pregnancy, risk
Comparison of Nature Activities
Research shows spending time in nature can result in many positive effects, including improving mood, connection to nature, and environmental concern. Certain activities may increase these positive effects of nature exposure. Citizen science (non-scientists collecting data to contribute to science) and environmental education (receiving information about the environment) are two potential ways to boost the positive effects of nature exposure. But little research has been done comparing citizen science with environmental education. To address this gap in knowledge, undergraduate participants were randomly assigned to spend five minutes outside daily, for two weeks, either simply observing nature, looking for birds, or looking for and recording bird sightings. Over time, all groups experienced improvements in mood, connection to nature, and environmental concern. However, connection to nature increased the most in people who simply observed nature. Unexpectedly, simply spending time in nature was the most effective intervention. Limitations and future directions are discussed. Author Keywords: Citizen Science, Emotional Well-Being, Environmental Concern, Environmental Education, Nature Exposure, Nature Relatedness
Exploring Characteristics of those Utilizing Different Modalities of Treatment for Substance Use Disorders
Substance use disorder (SUD) is a pervasive psychological disorder detrimentally impacting both individuals and society on a psychological, economic, and social level. The best protocol for treating SUD as well as what defines success in treatment is often debated in the research. However, researchers agree that different psychosocial factors can influence outcomes. The literature suggests that mood, dark personality traits (narcissism and psychopathy), social supports, and state of change may be associated with treatment for SUD. The current study explored whether these factors predicted the type of treatment (abstinence-based or harm reduction) individuals with SUD were in. The sample consisted of 37 participants in a 12-step abstinence-based program and 65 in a harm reduction program at a local hospital. Results indicated that those in abstinence-based groups reported significantly fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, lower levels of narcissism and psychopathy, more social supports, and advanced stage of change in comparison to those attending a harm reduction program. In addition, depression, narcissism, and perceived social support were significant predictors of treatment group membership. These findings suggest that those involved in abstinence-based groups appear to experience overall more wellness than those in harm reduction. Although further research is needed to specify the relations among factors, this study is a step towards understanding the difference between people who utilize one program versus another. Author Keywords: Abstinence, Addiction, Harm Reduction, Personality, Treatment
Mindful or Mind Full? Exploring the Associations Between Relationships, Mindfulness, and Stress
Past research has indicated a relationship between attachment and mindfulness; however, less is known about the behavioural outcomes of this relationship. The purpose of the present study was to test a new, more in-depth structural model of the relationship between attachment and mindfulness, and further explore the effects of attachment and mindfulness session type (group or individual) on attendance and willingness to continue mindfulness. As predicted, both the self and other model of attachment were positively associated with mindfulness. Surprisingly, individuals who were initially interested in the follow up sessions reported significantly more negative models of others than individuals who were not interested. For the in-person sessions, no significant differences were found for participant attendance or willingness to continue based on attachment and/or type of session. The discussion of results highlights the importance of people’s view of others for developing mindfulness traits and developing strong client-provider relationships in therapeutic and intervention settings. Author Keywords: Adult attachment, Mindfulness, Stress


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