Fatima is a senior high school student, and this is her first year interning for the PTG lab. Recently, Fatima presented findings from her literature review, titled Relationship Between Social Isolation in Childhood and Health. Fatima sought to examine how active social disengagement affects physical health, mental health, and social attachment. Fatima presented articles addressing the relationship between child abuse and social isolation, age differences of social isolation perception, and to what extent childhood friendships can buffer social isolation. She also looked at how childhood isolation can predict future health by reviewing an article that assessed the effects of social isolation in early childhood on potential mental health problems in adolescence and another article that predicted increased adult inflammation. Fatima learned that there is variation in childhood social isolation and that it may lead to cascading mental and physical health issues. We are impressed with Fatima’s work and hope she continues to pursue her love for behavioral sciences into college!
Recently, Jess presented an overview of her master’s thesis. While reviewing research related to trauma, personality, and coping, Jess identified that traits and psychological constructs are often interpreted from a dichotomous perspective – good/bad, positive/negative – which does not necessarily reflect the reality of one’s lived experiences. Therefore, Jess framed her master’s thesis to deconstruct dichotomous thinking. The purpose of her study is fourfold: 1) to find the link between negative personality traits, maladaptive coping, and trauma, 2) identify adaptive implications of maladaptive coping and negative personality traits, 3) redefine negative personality traits, disorder, and coping in light of trauma, and 4) set the framework to de-pathologize personality disorders, while implementing new interventions for trauma survivors. Jess suggests that maladaptive coping strategies may be used in adaptive ways by individuals with higher levels of negative personality traits, thereby providing ample rationale for a reconsideration of a dichotomous understanding of coping strategies and psychological constructs. She proposes that an optimal balance model would better serve those who struggle in the aftermath of traumatic experiences, both in the short-term and long-term. Jess is currently in the process of collecting data and we look forward to hearing more about her findings. Great job, Jess, and good luck with your research!
For Alex’s second semester research article presentation to the lab, he chose an article with some relation to the research study over which he is principal investigator, entitled A Survey about Images of Psychosomatic Disorder or Posttraumatic Growth. Alex chose an article that was aimed at examining if defensive styles moderate the relationship between well-being and PTG. Defensive styles were categorized as neurotic, immature, and mature defensive styles, with the supposition that neurotic and immature defensive styles are associated with illusory growth, while mature defensive style is associated with authentic PTG. The researchers suggest that level and type of defensive style will provide valuable insight into interpreting self-reports of personal growth. Results revealed that neurotic type of defensive style was associated with self-reports of PTG, which was suggested to indicate the presence of illusory growth. Results also revealed that mature defensive style moderated the relationship between PTG and positive and negative affect, respectively, which the researchers interpreted as support for the moderating effect of defensiveness style on the relationship between PTG and well-being. However, Alex challenged the idea of assigning positive and negative affect as a substitute for well-being, especially after the well-being scale did not yield significant results to support the stated hypothesis. The presentation led to engaging discussion about research design and implementation. Great job, Alex, on a thought-provoking presentation!
The PTG Lab would like to welcome four new members!
Welcome to new graduate student lab member, Olivia! Olivia is a first-year master’s student with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology and a minor in early childhood from the University of Michigan-Flint. She is currently interested in the short term and long-term effects that trauma and abuse can have on children. Additionally, she is interested in creativity and the development of the creative process. She hopes to connect these two interests for her master’s thesis. Olivia got involved with the PTG lab because it compliments her interests and future goals, and she is looking forward to working alongside others with similar interests. She plans to apply what she learns in the PTG lab to a future career as a child psychologist at a children’s hospital. Olivia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The PTG Lab also welcomes new graduate student lab member, Megan! Megan is a first-year master’s student with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan-Flint with minors in early childhood and substance abuse. During her time at Oakland University, she plans to study PTG in those effected by trauma at all ages, especially in children. Megan joined the lab to expand her knowledge of PTG, examine how individuals are affected by trauma over time, and identify different coping methods utilized after trauma. In the future she hopes to work with children who are victims of abuse and neglect in the foster care system. Megan can be reached at email@example.com.
The PTG Lab would also like to welcome new graduate student lab member, Qandeel! Qandeel is a first-year master’s student with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Oakland University. She hopes that the research skills she develops in the PTG Lab will help her with a future career as a clinical psychologist. After completing a master’s degree, Qandeel aspires to obtain a PsyD in clinical psychology and eventually open her own private practice to pursue what she loves. Qandeel can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, the PTG Lab would like to welcome Brooklin, our new undergraduate research assistant. Brooklin is currently a junior at Oakland University, majoring in psychology. She became interested in joining the lab because she would like to learn about how posttraumatic growth is relevant to society, at large, and how the construct benefits people on an individual level. During her time in the lab, Brooklin hopes to study many aspects of posttraumatic growth, especially the way it can be fostered in veterans. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend graduate school for industrial and organizational psychology. Brooklin can be reached at Bmadams234@oakland.edu.
Velinka recently gave her Senior’s Thesis presentation titled “Youth Perceptions of Intergenerational Discordance and Immigrant Well-being”. Velinka is interested in studying acculturation, the process of adapting to a new culture, and how differing rates of acculturation between immigrant youth and their parents can lead to family tension and potential youth distress and maladjustment. This explanation of immigrant youth distress is known as the Acculturation Gap Distress model and has been expanded to take into account intergenerational, contextual, and individual differences. Velinka plans to take a mixed methods approach to examine youth-perceived parent-child gaps and assess their relation to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic growth (PTG), and somatic symptoms in immigrant youth. This is an exploratory study designed to quantitatively and qualitatively examine the role of perceived gaps between immigrant parent and child in acculturation and emotion processing and awareness on youth distress and to explore if stress related to perceived parent-child discrepancies leads to PTG. Velinka hopes to contribute to the Acculturation Gap-Distress Model, clarify the relationship between gap-distress-related stress and PTG, and provide information to educators, clinicians and physicians to assist those who struggle with immigration. We are excited to see what Velinka finds!
Whitney recently presented her dissertation proposal entitles “Psychological Growth, Distress, and Educational Impact of Dolphins and Dolphin Assisted Therapy in Children”. Whitney’s research is divided into three studies. The first study will examine the effect of a Wild Swim-With-Dolphins program on several variables of children including posttraumatic growth, social support, emotion regulation, and more. For the second study, she plans to empirically examine the impact of wild DAT on psychological factors among children, document physiological change across program using heart rate, and assess participant & guardian perceptions of the program. For the third study, Whitney will collect data from a Captive-Swim-With-Dolphins programs. She plans to assess the impact of physical touch with dolphins, assess emotion regulation, social support, and empathy changes, and assess conservation behavior and attitudes in children from the dolphin interaction. Upon completing these three studies, Whitney will be able to address the relationship between posttraumatic growth and dolphin interactions, compare captive versus wild swim-with-dolphin programs, and determine the mechanisms of effective animal assisted therapies with the goal of developing clinical interventions. Whitney has been collecting data and plans to continue next spring and summer! Good luck Whitney!
Several PTG lab members recently had the opportunity to travel to San Fransisco, California and present their studies at the 126th meeting of the American Psychological Association from August 9th-12th.
Jenna, Alvin, and Dr. Taku developed a poster presentation of their project, titled Impact of Life Events and Stressors Related to Posttraumatic Growth. The aim of the study was to investigate how how particular life stressors (e.g., death of a loved one, academic issues) would relate to specific PTG domains (i.e., Appreciation of Life, Relating to Others, Personal Strength). Alvin did a great job presenting their work. Jenna also worked on another project with Dr. Taku and Dr. Matthew McLarnon, title Resiliency, Posttraumatic Growth, and Growth Motivation in U.S. Military Personnel, in which they examined the relationship between two perspectives of resiliency and their relations to growth motivation and posttraumatic growth. Dr. Taku presented the poster on behalf of the group. Jess presented the project she worked on with Lauren and Dr. Taku, titled The Influence of Dark Triad Personality Traits on Perceived Trauma. The purpose of the study was to assess how certain aspects of the Dark Triad influence an individual’s perception of a most impactful event when multiple events are experienced.
Jess and Velinka presented their project with Dr. Taku, titled The Relationship Between Interpersonal Stressors, the Dark Triad, and PTG. The purpose of their study was to examine how the relationship between individuals with Dark Triad traits and PTG changes depending on types of interpersonal stressors. Lastly, Lauren, Velinka, and Dr. Taku developed a project titled How Narratives of Authentic and Illusory Growth are Perceived. The purpose of the study was to assess differences in perceptions of authentic and illusory growth through the use of narrative vignettes.
APA 2018 proved to be another rewarding experience and even allowed for the opportunity meet Dr. Taku’s colleague and friend, Dr. Jane Shakespeare-Finch who traveled from Australia. Overall, lab members were excited for another opportunity to share their work and learn about research being conducted around the world.
The Meeting of Minds conference provides a yearly opportunity for undergraduate students from Oakland University, University of Michigan-Dearborn, and University of Michigan-Flint to share research accomplishments through oral and poster presentations. On May 11th, U of M-Dearborn hosted this year’s event, and lab members Lauren, Alex, Nicholas, and Velinka attended and shared their projects. These studies have been also published in Meeting of Minds online Journal.
Lauren and Alex presented their project titled Can Hearing About Posttraumatic Growth Increase Self-Reported Growth? They examined self-reported PTG differences in those who were exposed to either PTG and Depression narratives. Contrary to their hypothesis, Lauren and Alex found that those who were exposed to Depression narratives reported higher PTG than those who were exposed to PTG narratives. The findings suggest that, when exposed to a negative narrative and then asked to reflect on oneself, participants may be motivated to maintain cognitive well-being.
Velinka presented her and Jenna’s collaborative project titled The Desire to Foster Personal Growth in First- and Second-Generation Immigrants: A U.S. Sample. Their study examined the difference between first- and second-generation immigrants’ desire to foster personal growth (i.e. growth motivation) in those whose country of origin is collectivist. In spite of notably small sample sizes, the results yielded marginally significant group differences in certain aspects of growth motivation. The findings suggest that, as immigrants acculturate to new country norms, they may also develop new desires to experience personal growth.
Nicholas and Velinka presented their project titled Does Type of Stress Affect Posttraumatic Growth? Examining Differences Among the Different Aspects of Growth. Their study examined PTG domain differences between participants who reported family related stress due to parental divorce and those who reported family-related stress due to cancer. They found significant differences between the groups when it came to the Personal Strength domain but not the other PTG domains. Even still, this suggests that growth after traumatic events may vary depending on the type of event.
Overall, the conference was a success and another great opportunity to share the hard work of many!
Lab members Lauren, Jenna, Velinka, Jess, and Alvin attended the 90th annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, from April 12-14 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. The purpose of the conference is for students and psychologists across the Midwest to share and discuss their research. The conference featured nearly a thousand research presentations across all branches of psychology, and included major addresses and methodology workshops. Additionally, the conference featured programs offered by Psi Chi, the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, and the Society for Community Research and Action.
Lauren and Jess presented their poster titled Which Dimensions of Narcissism are Influential in Reporting Posttraumatic Growth? which they worked on with Dr. Taku. Particularly, their presentation explained how aspects of narcissism like grandiose fantasy and contingent self-esteem, respectively, influence PTG. Narcissism was a popular topic at the conference, and Jess and Lauren answered many questions from interested attendees.
Jess presented her and Velinka’s poster titled Examining the Relationship Between the Dark Triad and Posttraumatic Growth, which they worked on with Dr. Taku. This poster presentation examined the association between Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism, respectively, and PTG. Jess got a chance to inform many intrigued attendees about both the Dark Triad and PTG.
Velinka presented her poster titled Personality Traits and Importance of Nationality: Indicators of Cultural Adaptation? which she worked on with Kyle and Dr. Taku. This poster presentation shared results about how extraversion, openness to experience, and agreeableness relate to the importance one places on nationality. Many attendees stopped to ask questions and found Velinka’s poster regarding immigration research extremely engaging!
On the final day of the conference, Jenna and Alvin presented their poster titled, Counter-Intuitive Impact of Academic Stressors on Posttraumatic Growth in Bereaved College Students, which they worked on with Dr. Taku. Specifically, their poster presentation shared results regarding how experiencing both academic stressors and the death of someone close, respectively, affect PTG. They did a fantastic job communicating their research and ended the MPA conference on the right note!
The conference was a huge success with over 3,300 in attendance, and the PTG lab looks forward to presenting at the 91st MPA conference next year. Next year’s conference is set to be held at the Palmer House Hilton again, from April 11-13, 2019.
Great job Jess, Lauren, Velinka, Alvin, and Jenna for representing the lab well!
Recently, graduate students Whitney Dominick and Jess Kopitz shared a poster presentation at an annual conference hosted by the Department of Psychology at Oakland University. Over the past several years, the Department of Psychology has hosted an evolution-focused conference, and this year’s event was titled “Evolutionary Perspectives of Death.” The goal of the conference was twofold: to enrich one’s understanding of death and dying, and to recognize the value of interdisciplinary collaboration. During a portion of the conference, graduate students had the opportunity to give a poster presentation. Whitney and Jess’s study titled “Cross-Cultural Differences in Perceptions of Death in Japanese and American Undergraduates” examined four death-related components: 1) emotions evoked by thoughts of death (sorrow versus anxiety), 2) focus on self versus others, 3) mention of reincarnation, and 4) mention of living a fulfilling life. Whitney and Jess predicted that participants from Japan and America would differ in each category, with Japanese participants predicted to mention reincarnation more than Americans and American participants predicted to mention fulfillment in life more than Japanese. All their hypotheses were supported, suggesting significant cultural differences in the way death is perceived and cognitively processed. Well done, Jess and Whitney!