Sheila Marshall

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not looking for graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows. Please do not contact the faculty member with any such requests.


Research Classification

Research Interests

Life Cycles ( Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood, etc.)
Parent-Child Relationships
adolescent social identity
adolescent well-being
parent-adolescent interactions

Relevant Degree Programs

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.

Research Methodology

action-project method

Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


Sheila and Grant are always available. They are highly knowledgeable and very caring about my learning. They are respectful and treat me like a colleague. Sheila and Grant also provide excellent guidance and support which is necessary as a hopeful researcher. Their experience is so helpful to me and they have me involved in their research projects which has helped me to develop my research skills. They have taught me how to write and submit manuscripts, write applications for awards, and are generally very kind and caring. They are amazing.

Daniel Ji (2019)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Investigating substantive validity evidence using action-project method for the goal attainment scaling measure (2019)

No abstract available.

Ethics and youth gender health care: hormone therapy initiation decision-making of transgender youth, parents, and health care providers (2018)

Many transgender (trans) youth require hormone therapy to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender; however, these youth frequently experience barriers to needed health care. Health care providers supporting trans youth encounter challenges of their own, including unresolved ethical dilemmas, a lack of consensus surrounding clinical practices, and a limited body of empirical research. Increased understanding of youth and parent experiences with decision-making around hormone therapy initiation could serve to inform clinical practices, but this topic remains unexamined in the literature. Existing research on trans youth experiences with hormone therapy generally includes youth who are enrolled in gender clinics, without attention to those actively experiencing barriers to care. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore how trans youth with a broad range of health care experiences, parents of trans youth, and health care providers made decisions around hormone therapy initiation. This constructivist grounded theory study was conducted in British Columbia, Canada. Trans youth (aged 14-18), parents of trans youth, and health care providers offering hormone therapy readiness assessment/care planning services participated in semi-structured interviews. Youth and parents responded to questions and created lifeline drawings detailing their experiences both making and enacting decisions related to hormone therapy initiation. Health care provider interviews focused on ethical dilemmas and decision-making. Three-phase temporal models of decision-making processes were generated based on youth and parent interviews, highlighting common experiences before, during, and after engagement with health care providers. Decision-making processes varied; some decisions were made independently and some were shared. Five conditions necessary for engagement in shared decision-making within youth gender health care emerged, focused on strong relationships, strong communication, role agreement, decision agreement, and time. The Belief-Dilemma-Action Model was developed to illustrate three key constructs relevant to health care provider ethical decision-making processes. Beliefs, dilemmas, and actions were found to interact with one another, influencing the construction and resolution of ethical dilemmas in practice. Key dilemmas identified centered around family conflict, potential harm (e.g., regret), youth capacity to consent to care, and resource scarcity. Recommendations are given for clinical practice, ethical decision-making approaches, health care provider education, and future research.

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Processes by which relationships shape responses to sexual assault disclosures (2015)

Sexual assault is a common experience. When survivors disclose their assaults they are more likely to tell their peers than formal support providers. Peers’ responses have been found to relate to survivors’ healing processes. Increased understanding regarding why peers respond as they do provides greater opportunities to influence their responses to survivors through outreach and support work. Previous research largely overlooks how the peer-survivor relationship might relate to responses to disclosures of sexual assault. This research includes both formal and informal supporters to increase the range of relationships available for examination. Two studies were conducted. The first study surveyed undergraduate students to investigate associations between different aspects of peer relationships and: a) emotional distress experienced after a disclosure, and b) social reactions provided to the survivor. The second study interviewed a subset of the peers involved in Study 1 as well as counsellors and support workers. Qualitative content analysis of interviews was used to increase understanding about the processes by which responses to disclosures of sexual assault are shaped by relationship characteristics. Findings suggest that relationship characteristics and type matter in disclosures of sexual assault. This dissertation advances research about sexual assault disclosures in three important ways. First, it contributes to understanding about divergent social reactions to sexual assault disclosures by including a wide range of relationships at the time of disclosure, ranging from no prior relationship to close friendships. Second, it examines various supporters’ perspectives of how their thoughts and emotions might relate to their reactions to survivors. Little research has investigated a range of supporters’ views of why they react in the ways they do. Third, this dissertation contributes to knowledge about how to improve support to survivors and the people to whom they disclose. Without better understanding of how supporters’ experiences relate to their responses, working with peers and formal supporters to help them respond in more helpful ways is difficult. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for prevention and intervention efforts and recommendations for systems of support.

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See my future: Future thinking of adolescents with a progressive life-threatening neurodegenerative illness (2013)

The construction of meaningful future self-representations is an important part of identity development. For adolescents living with a progressive life-threatening neurodegenerative illness, the projection of self into the future requires the movement into the unknown and uncertain realm of an illness trajectory. The purpose of this study was to examine how adolescents who are living with a progressive life-threatening neurodegenerative illness construct meaningful future self-representations. A narrative approach was utilized as the method of inquiry. Ten adolescents between the ages of 12 and 20 who had been diagnosed with a progressive life-threatening neurodegenerative illness participated in a semi-structured narrative interview. Within the interviews three lines of inquiry were followed, which explored future thinking, possible selves, and continuity in the stories of the selves over time. Data analysis occurred across four readings of the narrative transcripts. The analysis included a stepping-in and stepping-back process, allowing for individual stories to remain contextualized and for collective themes to emerge across the narratives. Major findings confirm future thinking as a contextually based activity, a construction of a range of possible selves both with and without the illness, and an ability to oscillate between these two versions of future selves. As well, the adolescents demonstrated personal continuity in the selves of the past, present, and the future. As an overarching theme, future thinking emerges as a required activity for reasons of coping, personhood, and decision-making. This research makes contributions to developmental science as well as pediatric palliative care as it extends current literature pertaining to future thinking and possible selves, thereby adding to the conceptual and theoretical knowledge base. As well, the findings highlight the importance of developing a healthcare practice that is responsive to the developmental need to create a future self and to explore all aspects of what is possible, as well as impossible.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Can fatherhood be a turning-point opportunity for street-involved youth? (2013)

Although street-involved youth report pregnancy at higher rates than youth in school, there is almost no research on street-involved teen fathers. This study had two objectives. The first objective was to provide a description of the background and current situations of street-involved youth in Western Canada who were fathers compared to their street-involved peers without children. The second objective was to investigate if fatherhood could be a potential turning-point opportunity for street-involved youth. Research with adolescent street-involved mothers and adolescent fathers has shown that parenthood could reduce alcohol or drug use, increase connection to employment and connection to treatment. The results did not support fatherhood as a potential turning-point opportunity for street-involved youth. Street-involved fathers were almost a year older and were street-involved at a younger age than non-fathers. Almost 20% of fathers reported their children lived with them. Fathers were more likely to report precarious housing, i.e., on the street or in a tent. Street-involved fathers were more likely to have been told they have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Street-involved fathers were less likely to be currently attending school. However, they were more likely to report working in a legal job than non-fathers or to obtain money from income assistance and from being a youth in care than non-fathers. Street-involved fathers reported higher prevalence of recent illicit drug use compared to non-fathers for several drugs, including crystal meth and ketamine. However, street-involved fathers were also more likely to have accessed some form of substance abuse treatment, including detox and inpatient treatment centres. Given their challenges, it was not surprising that street-involved fathers were more pessimistic about their future. They were significantly more likely than non-fathers to expect to be dead in five years. Despite the lack of evidence for fatherhood as a turning-point opportunity for street-involved youth, this study provided descriptions of street-involved fathers’ circumstances that social workers may face when engaging with these young men. Of particular note for further research are fathers whose children live with them. There may be distinct needs for this group which could be addressed through development of services or changes in current programs for street-involved youth.

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"We don't look at the non-custodial father as being a possibility or option": working towards a better understanding of how fathers are conceived in child protection (2012)

This study examines what concepts about men’s behaviours child protection workers use when working with non-residential and non-custodial fathers. It is a qualitative study informed by Grounded Theory. Ten participants who were all child protection workers were presented with a scenario about a father who was seeking to have his children returned to his care and then asked to describe the decisions they would make in determining the father’s request. The data from the interviews were analysed using constant comparison analysis and produced three theoretical constructs relating to the participants’ concepts of men’s behaviours: the conceptual roots of men’s behaviours; the dichotomy of paternal behaviour; and accepting and excepting men’s behaviours in child protection. The findings indicated that the participants felt that their concepts and understanding of men’s behaviours as fathers came from their own experiences with their fathers and the cultural and societal norms with which they grew up. They believed that men are capable of being good parents and they are an important part of the family but there were some behaviours of men that concerned them. When it came to working with men in child protection, most participants stated that they make every effort to involve fathers and do consider them as a possible resource. There is a belief that fathers are capable of looking after their children but, as single fathers, they may need to be monitored and provided with supports. Demonstrating willingness to parent, some positive parenting skills and a willingness to be cooperative were considered acceptable behaviours. Behaviours that were considered exceptable were: a recent and extensive criminal history; extreme aggression; secrecy; and sexual abuse. However, with all these behaviours, there was a willingness to continue to work with the father to keep him involved in some capacity.

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Loneliness and Mattering: investigating Distinctions Among University Students (2012)

Perceived mattering, or the psychological tendency to evaluate the self as significant to others, and loneliness are two constructs that have received increasing attention in the past several decades. However, there is a dearth of literature on the relationship between mattering andloneliness. The purpose of this study was to empirically test the relationship between the two constructs, as well as to determine whether perceived mattering has a compensatory or additive effect in accounting for variance in loneliness. The secondary aim of this study was to test for any moderating effects of gender on the relationships between loneliness and mattering to various referents. The data were gathered from a convenience sample of university students (N = 99; 77% female, n = 76; 23% male, n = 23). Stepwise regressions, with loneliness as the dependent variable and perceived mattering to various referents as the independent variables, were conducted. Interaction terms were created and entered into regressions to test for compensatory and moderating effects. The results revealed that perceived mattering and loneliness were not inversely related although they were significantly negatively associated. Mattering to various referents (mothers, fathers, friends, and romantic partners) had an additive effect in accounting for variance in loneliness. Lastly, gender moderated the negative relationship between mattering and loneliness when the referents were mothers and fathers. Implications for future research and social work practice are discussed.

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Explorations into adolescents' perceived maturity with parents and peers (2011)

Many social relationships have the potential to influence perceived maturity. Previous research has not examined the possibility of distinct perceptions emerging from different relationships. This initial investigation focuses on parents and peers as the two groups with which social perceptions of maturity might vary. This investigation also addresses potential changes in perceived maturity over time, and its association with chronological age and gender of the adolescent. Additionally, Moffitt’s (1993) developmental taxonomy and an alternative model for adolescents’ association with deviant peers are tested. Three hundred and twenty six adolescents (129 boys, 197 girls) from a high school in a large urban city in western Canada participated in this study. Students ranged from 12 to 17 years of age and were in grades 8 through 11 at the first wave of data collection. Two waves of data, one year apart, were used. Analyses found support for a differentiation between perceived maturity with parents and peers for about 40% of participants. Changes in perceived maturity over a one-year period were also found for parents (53%) and for peers (52%). Results indicated that there was no statistically significant relationship between chronological age or gender of the adolescent and perceived maturity. Neither Moffitt’s (1993) model nor the alternative model was supported. Implications for the differences in perceived maturity between parents and peers as well as changes in perceived maturity are discussed.

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Negotiating care: how care is negotiated between a young carer and a parent facing mental illness and addiction (2010)

This study explores the negotiation of care between a young carer and a parent facing mental illness and addiction. The paradigm derived from the current research focuses mainly on issues faced by young carers, seeing them as a population at risk. With an overrepresentation of research exploring children's caring work, the highly complex relationships between disabled and/or ill parents and their children who care for them tend to be overlooked. Using action theory this study explores a case study of a young carer and parent to answer the question: how is care negotiated between the two? The results demonstrated the fluidity in the relationship in terms of how care was negotiated and that is was more reciprocal than that which is often presented in the literature. This reciprocity challenges the stigma and stereotypes often associated with young caring and parents with disability and/or illness and can help inform both future research and practice.

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Current Students & Alumni

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