Training Track: Clinical
Lab: Promoting Adjustment in Children through Evaluation (PACE) Lab
Advisor: Scott Leon, Ph.D.
Office: Coffey 202
Webpage: Research Gate
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. Therefore, it is unsurprising that 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 despite these findings, there is also evidence that a number of youth in foster care are functioning relatively well and can be thought of as demonstrating resilience. These contrasting findings of both poor functioning and resilience among foster care youth raise questions regarding the factors that distinguish between those who function well and those who exhibit difficulties. Various protective factors, including social support and positive self-concept, have been associated with resilience. Both of these factors have been associated with more positive functioning in several domains, including internalizing problems, externalizing problems, social competence, and academic competence. Additionally, social support is positively related to self-concept. This pattern of findings suggests that self-concept may mediate the relations between social support and well-being, and several studies have found evidence for this effect. However, it is important to further examine these associations in the unique context of foster care. The present study will examine self-concept as a mediator of associations between social support (from multiple sources, including foster parents) and four domains of psychosocial functioning: internalizing problems, externalizing problems, social competence, and academic competence. Cross-lagged panel models will be tested via structural equation modeling to evaluate the hypothesized mediational models. Separate models will be evaluated for each domain of well-being and for the different measures of social support (i.e., foster parent support, total social support from other sources), resulting in eight sets of analyses.
Scott Leon, James Garbarino, Catherine Santiago, and Jesse Klein