PhD Oral Exam - Elana Gottlieb August, Psychology
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
The two studies that make up the present dissertation were designed to investigate the emotion regulation abilities of school-aged children and their mothers in two different samples of families at-risk for negative psychosocial outcomes. Specifically, it examined the associations between mother and child emotion regulation abilities in middle childhood, and mothers’ childhood histories of aggression, parenting factors, child behaviour, and the longitudinal association of these early behaviours to adolescent healthrisk behaviours.
Participants in Study 1 were mothers and their 9-12-year-old children (n = 82); participants in Study 2 (n = 59) were mothers and their 5-12-year-old children. Both samples were drawn from the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project (Concordia Project): a prospective, longitudinal, intergenerational study of high-risk children from disadvantaged neighbourhoods that began in 1976-1978. Original participants were screened along dimensions of aggression, social withdrawal, and likeability in childhood, and were followed into parenthood. The Concordia Project provides a unique opportunity to study the intergenerational transfer of health and psychosocial risk during childhood, and to determine the processes and protective factors that predict positive outcomes for children within an ‘‘at-risk’’ population. A unique observational coding system was developed and used in both studies in the present dissertation. Emotion regulation behaviours in children and mothers were observationally coded second-by-second, using the Middle Childhood Emotion Regulation System. Observational codes loaded onto three broad dimensions: avoidance, approach, and self-comfort. Behaviour problems, parental support, parental stress, and adolescent risk behaviour were all measured through the use of reliable and wellvalidated questionnaire measures. Results revealed that certain child emotion regulation behaviours (e.g., self-comfort, approach) were related to maternal childhood histories of aggression. Moreover, results from both studies found links between child emotion regulation behaviors and parental variables. Finally, emotion regulation behaviours in middle childhood were associated with both concurrent behaviour problems and longitudinal risky behaviours, such as drug use. Together, findings contribute to our understanding of how emotion regulation behaviours in children are intergenerationally, concurrently, and longitudinally associated. Results have implications for the design of preventative interventions for both individuals and families to target the development of adaptive emotion regulation behaviours.