Training Track: Clinical
Lab: Promoting Adjustment in Children through Evaluation (PACE) Lab
Advisor: Scott Leon, Ph.D.
My research interests center on intervention evaluation and relational and family influences on child and adolescent mental health. Specifically, I am interested in studying how the family and other interpersonal relationships contribute to risk and resilience, particularly among trauma-exposed youth.
Masters Thesis Title
Sexual behavior problems in child welfare: Predictors of reliable change
Masters Thesis Abstract
This study examined predictors of changes in children’s sexual behaviors across two time points within a sample of youth in the child welfare system. Hypothesized predictors of increases or decreases in children’s sexual behaviors included child attributes, positive parenting, exposure to sexuality and violence, maltreatment history and child welfare placement history, and treatment variables. Participants included 145 children with reported sexual behavior problems and their primary caregivers and mental healthcare providers. Children’s sexual behaviors were classified as improved, worsened, or unchanged. Optimal Data Analysis (ODA) and multivariate classification tree analysis (CTA) via ODA were used to identify predictors of children’s classification status and to form subgroups of youth based on interactions between predictors. Results indicated that child functioning (i.e., internalizing and externalizing symptoms) and treatment variables (e.g., sex education) were significant predictors of children’s classification status. Post-hoc analyses revealed differences between subgroups with regard to child variables and therapist theoretical orientation. These results highlight associations between internalizing and externalizing symptoms and children’s sexual behaviors, as well as the benefits of including education in clinical services for children with sexual behavior problems. Future research should continue to examine the appropriateness of various treatment approaches for children with specific symptom presentations.
Masters Thesis Committee
Scott Leon and Fred Bryant
Social support and well-being among foster care youth: Self-Concept as a mediator
Youth in the child welfare system frequently undergo a variety of adverse experiences, including maltreatment, living in poverty, placement changes, school changes, and relationship disruptions. As a group, these youth exhibit poorer psychosocial functioning (e.g., elevated rates of mental health difficulties, poorer social and academic competence) than their peers, yet there is also evidence that a number of youth in foster care are functioning relatively well and can be perceived as demonstrating resilience. The present study examined self-concept as a mediator of hypothesized associations between social support and four domains of psychosocial functioning: internalizing problems, externalizing problems, social competence, and academic competence. Cross-lagged panel models were tested via structural equation modeling to evaluate the hypothesized mediational models. Results did not support the hypothesized indirect effects of social support on well-being. Future research should continue to examine the influences of risk and protective factors on psychosocial outcomes for youth in the child welfare system.
Scott Leon, James Garbarino, Catherine Santiago, and Jesse Klein