Master of Arts in Psychology (MA)
To intervene or not to intervene? Bystander intervention in cyber aggression
Our lab aims to understand why some children have trouble with making friends, keeping friends, and being accepted by their peer group, as well as what the consequences of these peer problems might be. Some of our research focuses on youth with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) because this population provides fertile ground to study peer difficulties, while other research concerns how typical kids interact.
In this lab we are most interested in social contextual influences, such as children’s classroom or home environments, on their peer problems. We are studying ways in which teachers and parents may (a) foster children’s peer relationships; (b) be harnessed as novel intervention targets for the peer difficulties of children with ADHD; and (c) contribute to resilient emotional adjustment among youth with friendship problems or peer rejection.
Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.
Individuals with mental illness endure pervasive stigma from society because of their condition, which puts them at elevated risk for distress, diminished self-esteem, social maladjustment, and worsened treatment outcomes. Therefore, treating only the symptoms of mental illness is not sufficient to improve the quality of lives of affected individuals. Rather, societal change in reducing stigma of mental illness must occur. This study tested the efficacy of a commonly used strategy (education-contact intervention; EC), relative to a novel intervention (loving-kindness meditation; LKM), and a control condition on reducing cognitive, affective, and behavioural stigma toward the mental illness of bipolar disorder. This addressed a number of limitations in the existing literature regarding measurement of stigma components and assessment of intervention efficacy. Three hundred seventy-six participants watched a 15-minute video corresponding to one of the three conditions: EC, LKM, or control. Then, they completed a self-report measure of affective, cognitive, and behavioural stigma toward a hypothetical person with bipolar disorder, and an implicit stigma measure. Participants also interacted with a confederate who presented as a fellow participant and disclosed being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After the interaction, participants completed measures of affective stigma toward the confederate. Behavioural stigma toward the confederate was measured by participants’ behavioral intentions to interact with the confederate in the future, the confederate’s impression rating of the participant, and naïve coders’ thin-slice coding of the interaction. Results indicated that the EC condition led to improvements in some aspects of stigma toward a hypothetical person with bipolar disorder, and greater intentions to interact with the confederate. Importantly, knowledge of bipolar disorder, positivity toward others, and negativity toward others were significant mediators through which EC impacted improvements in stigma toward a hypothetical person with bipolar disorder. Although LKM did not reduce affective and implicit stigma as expected, it was associated with greater intentions to interact with the confederate. Moreover, higher positivity toward others due to LKM mediated positive outcome in some aspects of stigma. Implications of findings for stigma interventions, as well as clinical implications for individuals with mental illness and mental health care providers, are discussed.
Research shows that children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) commonly experience a myriad of social problems. Previous investigations have mainly focused on examining the risk factors for poor social functioning such as the presence of comorbid behaviour problems and negative parenting. Few studies have considered processes which may contribute to social resilience in this population. The present study investigated not only risk factors (i.e., externalizing behaviour, internalizing behaviour, negative parenting), but also compensatory/protective factors (i.e., positive teacher-child relationship quality, parent social competence) associated with social functioning in children with ADHD. The sample consisted of 233 families of children with ADHD (162 boys, 71 girls; age 5 to 12) from Vancouver and Ottawa, Canada, who were seeking assessment and treatment. Parents and teachers reported on children’s behaviour problems and social functioning. Parents also reported on their own social competence and parenting, while teachers reported on their relationship quality with the children in the study. All data were collected at one time point. Results indicated that: (a) comorbid child behaviour problems were associated with poorer social competence; (b) positive teacher-child relationship quality and parent social competence were associated with better social functioning; (c) and parent social competence buffers the risk of comorbid child externalizing behaviour on poor social competence. Additional exploratory analyses were conducted to examine both positive and negative constructs in parenting, parent social competence, and teacher-child relationship quality, and how may they relate differently to child social functioning.
Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.
Most children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) demonstrate impairment in social functioning, especially in their social skills. However, internalizing (e.g., anxiety or depression) and externalizing (e.g., oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder) conditions both commonly co-occur with ADHD, and may complicate the social functioning profiles of these children. The present study sought to characterize unique social skill deficit profiles associated with the presence of internalizing comorbidity, externalizing comorbidity, and both comorbidities (internalizing + externalizing) in children with ADHD by taking a nuanced approach that considered both global social skills and specific subdomains of skills. Through pooling eight datasets from investigators across the United States and Canada, I tested these questions in a carefully phenotyped sample of n = 1400 children with ADHD, all of whom had parent and teacher ratings of social skills on a consistent measure. Regarding parent ratings of social skills, results indicated both significant main and interaction effects of each comorbidity on lower social skill performance in a varied pattern across global versus specific skills. For teacher ratings of social skills, externalizing comorbidity was consistently associated with poorer social skills across global and specific measures. In conclusion, social skill performance in children with ADHD does vary as a function of comorbidity status. These findings could help inform more personalized or individualized social skill interventions.
Evidence suggests that teachers being attuned to students’ peer relationships may be conducive for creating a positive classroom social environment. Using data from 558 children (grades K-5) in the classrooms of 34 general education teachers, this study examined: (1) whether teacher attunement is associated with students’ peer relationships; and (2) whether the associations differ in classrooms participating in an intervention designed to bolster peer relationships, compared to a typical practice control condition. All measures were collected in fall and in spring of one school year. Students’ relationships with peers (positive and negative nominations received) were measured using a sociometric procedure. Teachers also estimated the proportion of peers who liked and disliked each child. Teacher attunement was operationalized as the degree to which teachers’ reports overlapped with the sociometric data. Hierarchical Linear Modelling was used for data analyses and all results accounted for fall nominations. When teachers overestimated a student’s peer liking in fall, reflecting a lower absolute attunement, this was associated with the student receiving more positive peer nominations in spring. Teacher overestimation of a student’s peer disliking in fall was associated with receipt of both more positive and more negative nominations in spring, and teacher absolute attunement to peer disliking predicted the student receiving more positive nominations in spring. Intervention versus control condition did not moderate any results. Findings underscore the importance of considering whether lack of attunement reflects overestimation versus underestimation of student peer relationships, and potential differences between peer liking and peer disliking.
As North American classrooms become increasingly diverse, it is important to examine children’s friendships with cross-racial classroom peers. The present study employed a short-term longitudinal design to investigate the bidirectional associations between cross-racial friendships and children’s social and academic adjustment. Participants were 583 elementary school children in western Canada, or the midwestern United States (4-10 years; 48% female; 143 Asian, 88 Black, 65 Hispanic or Latinx, 171 White, 116 mixed). Children’s adjustment (social preference, academic enablers, academic performance) and friendship nominations (reciprocated, received, given) were measured in fall and spring over one school year. Findings show that fall adjustment positively predicted spring reciprocated cross-racial friendships, but not vice-versa. Academic enablers and received cross-racial friendship nominations were positively and reciprocally related to one another. Fall same-racial friendships positively predicted spring academic performance and social preference. Effect sizes were small. Findings are discussed in the context of a multi-racial society.
Considerable research documents parents’ difficulty parenting children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In addition to the stress associated with parenting a child with ADHD, many parents experience their own symptoms of ADHD and depression. Research has found that parental ADHD and depression affect parenting behaviours, however, the incremental and interactive effects have rarely been considered in the same study. Further, there is inconsistent consideration of oppositional behaviours in children with ADHD, a common comorbidity known to contribute to non-optimal parenting. A parent’s perceived and internalized stigma about their child’s ADHD symptoms, called affiliate stigma, may also be associated with parental psychopathology and parenting behaviours. This study examines the incremental and interactive influence of parental ADHD symptoms and parental depressive symptoms on parenting behaviours and affiliate stigma. It further examines affiliate stigma as a mediator for the relationship between parental depressive symptoms and parenting behaviours. Participants were 216 parents of children with ADHD. Parents self-reported their ADHD and depressive symptoms, parenting behaviours, and affiliate stigma. Teachers and parents rated child oppositional behaviours. A parent-child interaction task with a smaller sample (n = 142) was also coded for parenting behaviours. Results revealed that parental depressive symptoms predicted fewer self-reported positive parenting behaviours after controlling for parental ADHD symptoms and child oppositional behaviours. Parental depressive and ADHD symptoms were predictive of more self-reported negative parenting after controlling for child oppositional behaviours and the other psychopathology. An exploratory interaction effect was found, whereby parental ADHD symptoms predicted more self-reported negative parenting when depressive symptoms were low. Parental ADHD and depressive symptoms initially predicted self-reported unstructured parenting, but this association was not significant after controlling for the other psychopathology. Parental ADHD and depressive symptoms did not predict observed parenting behaviours. Although parental depressive symptoms predicted higher levels of affiliate stigma, affiliate stigma did not mediate the relationship between parental depressive symptoms and parenting behaviours. Findings suggest that parental ADHD and depressive symptoms may have some similarities and also differences in their associations with parenting. Importantly, future research, assessment, and treatment of families with children with ADHD should consider the potential effects of both psychopathologies.
Children with ADHD show severe impairment in their peer relationships (Hoza, 2007; Whalen & Henker, 1992). Investigations of why children with ADHD experience difficulties in their peer relationships have nearly exclusively focused on the characteristics of children with ADHD that contribute to social rejection by their peers. Meanwhile, the contributions that the peers make to the social impairment of children with ADHD have not been explored. This study examined children’s pre-existing perceptions of ADHD as a potential contribution of the peer group to the impairment of peer relationships in children with ADHD. Participants were 137 children (male = 66; ADHD diagnosis = 24; 6-9 years) who were unacquainted prior to the study and participated in a 2-week summer camp. At the start of the camp, children read about a hypothetical child with ADHD and were asked to rate their inclination to like the hypothetical child, attribution of uncontrollability for ADHD behaviours, and inclination to help the hypothetical child. On the last day of the camp, their sociometrics (“like”, “dislike”, friend nominations and liking ratings) given to previously unacquainted, real- life classmates with ADHD were measured. Results showed that children have pre-existing attitudes and beliefs about children with ADHD that predict their nominations and ratings given to new, previously unacquainted peers with ADHD. Findings shed light to why peer relationships for children with ADHD may remain impaired even after receiving medication or behavioural treatment for ADHD symptoms—as these treatments do not attempt to alter the pre-existing beliefs and attitudes held by peers toward children with ADHD. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.
Past literature shows that having behavioural problems, being disliked by peers (low peer preference), and being without friends (friendlessness) are all factors that place children at high risk for peer victimization and bullying. However, few studies have examined the unique contributions of peer preference and friendship to bullying and peer victimization as well as how bullying behaviours develop in children with behavioural problems. Thus, the specific roles of high peer preference and friendship in protecting against being victimized by peers and bullying peers, especially in children with behavioural problems, remain largely unknown. The present study investigated the relationship between behavioural problems and various peer problems in school-aged children, specifically how internalizing and externalizing behaviours lead to and interact with low peer preference and friendlessness to increase risk for bullying and peer victimization. The sample consisted of 24 children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and 113 typically developing children who were previously unacquainted and attending a 2-week summer camp program. Behavioural problems, low peer preference and friendship, and bullying and peer victimization were measured before the summer program, at the end of the first week of camp, and at the end of the second week of camp, respectively. Results indicated that: (a) peer preference is an important mediator in the relationship between behavioural problems and bullying; (b) both peer preference and friendship can protect against bullying and peer victimization in children with behavioural problems; and (c) significant gender differences exist such that friendship and high peer preference were predominantly found to be protective factors in boys, but not girls.