In addition to team projects, members of the lab conduct research for their theses, dissertations, and personal interests. Examples of current and recent projects include:
Portraying Anger and Anger Management in Children’s Picture Books (Hernandez, in progress)
This study aims to understand how experiences of anger arousal are presented in children’s picture books. Qualitative methods will be used to examine books that met selection criteria (N=82). Although extant literature demonstrates the benefits of using picture books to teach children about emotions, few studies have examined the content in picture books on the topic of anger. Given the importance of emotion regulation among children with diverse temperamental tendencies, this study will lead to a discussion of anger eliciting situations, anger manifestations, and anger management strategies presented across stories. Results from this study could inform caregivers and teachers to make mindful selections of picture books on the topic of anger as tools for anger management and socio-emotional learning. By identifying patterns in the portrayal of anger experiences in children’s stories, it can also bring awareness to publishers and authors about how to diversify the content of their picture books.
Exploring Disability Categorizations in Higher Education (Sarro Glantz, in progress)
This study focuses on identifying and exploring disability-specific personal factors in students with disability in higher education. Three disability-specific personal factors have been identified: onset of receiving disability services, type of disability, and understanding of disability that are unique to the experiences of students with disability in higher education. By exploring these three factors through gathering information on students' accommodation use and description of their functional limitations, this study hopes to better explain how these personal factors impact a student's academic performance in a given semester. The type of information gathered, whether it be through survey responses and/or narrative responses, will also be studied to see if the type of information has an impact on academic performance as well for the students in this population.
Relations between Expressive Writing and Teachers' Affect and Predictors of Engagement with Expressive Writing during the COVID-19 Pandemic (McCurdy, 2021)
The physical and psychological health benefits associated with expressive writing (EW) have been extensively studied (Frattaroli, 2006; Frisina et al., 2004; review by Pennebaker, 2018; Smyth, 1998). Despite the depth of this research, two important questions remain why is EW beneficial and who chooses to engage in EW. This study addresses these two questions by using a mixed methods procedure, which includes teachers’ written products about significant teaching experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as their ratings of positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA) before and after writing, and their ratings of the impact of the event they wrote about. Narratives were coded for levels of meaning-making and self-regulation with acceptable reliability among four raters. Results showed an immediate small decrease in NA after writing (d=.30) and an immediate small to moderate increase in PA after writing (d=.38). Additionally, correlational analyses revealed that higher levels of narrative meaning-making were related to higher levels of pre-writing NA, but not changes in NA or PA. Conversely, higher levels of narrative self-regulation were not related to pre-writing affect, but were significantly related to adaptive changes in immediate post-writing affect (increase in PA and decrease in NA). Two logistic regression models, one predicting who completed the first expressive writing session and one predicting who volunteered to receive information about the next phase of the study (i.e., additional writing sessions) were not significant. However, a logistic regression predicting whether a participant completed a second writing prompt using change in affect and narrative quality as predictors was significant. Narrative self-regulation was the only significant predictor, such that higher self-regulation was related to an increase in the likelihood of completion of a second prompt. Overall, results suggest that meaning-making and self-regulation are related to different outcomes associated with participants’ affect, with self-regulation being associated not only with adaptive change in affect, but also with continuing to engage with EW.
Psychological Flexibility (Shoplik, 2019)
Psychological flexibility is a dynamic construct that allows people to adapt to situational difficulties, allocate and reconfigure mental resources, change perspective, and balance competing desires, needs, and life domains (Kashdan & Rottenberg, 2012). The current study examines this construct in preschoolers and kindergarteners because of many important and rapid changes that occur in young children as they begin to think and act more flexibly in their everyday lives. The main research question is whether or not psychological flexibility in children is related to how sensitive they are to the external stimuli in the world around them. External stimuli might include anything from an interesting pattern of wallpaper in a room to the change in emotion of another person to receiving criticism from an adult. It is hypothesized that children who are highly sensitive think and act in a highly flexible manner.
Coping in Student Teachers (Kim, 2017)
Teacher attrition within the first three years is a growing problem in the US. The current study focuses on teacher stress from a novel perspective by assessing how teachers cope with stresses of the profession at the earliest point in their careers – during their training. Coping is defined as a transaction between a person and their environment, influenced by conscious choices and automatic processes. Research relies on explicit measures (self-report on Likert scales) to assess coping, but critics note this approach is limited and does not assess the whole process. In addition to Likert scales, this study incorporates implicit measures (narratives, the Thematic Apperception Test), to examine the implicit processes of coping. As predicted, significant correlations were identified within, but not across methods of measurement. Implicit but not explicit measures were significantly correlated with external evaluations of teacher effectiveness. Implications for coping theory and measurement are discussed.
Social Skill Scales in Context (Haasbroek, 2018)
Parents and teachers rated kindergarteners’ social skills and children were individually administered mental state understanding (MSU) tasks. The majority of teacher-rated social skills subscales and items correlated with language ability and MSU but relatively fewer parent-rated social skills items correlated with MSU. Despite variations across informants in patterns of social skills and MSU relations, there was support for two types of social skills items with differential relations to two types of MSU measures, structured (clear response expectations; related to understanding and following social scripts) and unstructured (unclear response expectations; related to higher level social cognition and acting on intentions).
Gender Differences in Young Children's Emotion Identification (Mulder, 2017)
Gender differences in emotion competence, including emotion identification, are held in popular belief but are inconsistently supported in the research. Emotion identification (EID) is defined as one’s understanding of the experience and expression of emotion, as conveyed through the labeling of the emotions oneself or another person is experiencing. This study investigated gender differences in EID using both the traditional method of comparing scores on a structured task of emotion identification and a comparison of girls’ and boys’ patterns of responding. An ANCOVA was used to compare girls’ and boys’ scores on a task of Situational EID across age groups, while children’s response patterns were analyzed using chi-squares. Results found few effects due to gender, but many effects due to age. Results are framed in context of the biological and social factors that impact emotion identification.