Psychology Research

May 2023 - May 2024

Overcoming Adversity Study 
Diana Rockstad

Diana Rockstad and Julie Schatz-Stevens Current research suggests that exposure to family violence is something that many individuals face. A consistent body of findings also highlight the powerful link between early abuse and psychological, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Our project, the Overcoming Adversity Study, will use a qualitative approach to investigate individuals’ early adverse childhood experiences. We will be conducting 2-3 semi-structured interviews to explore participants' childhood trauma, early parental care-giving, relationships with family, current intimate relationship behaviors and emotional and social adjustment. We intend to analyze the themes that arise from the interview data to better understand how early adverse experiences are perceived and responded to by parents. Additionally, sibling abuse has been identified as the most common form of family violence and is often accepted as normal sibling behaviors. For this reason, we will also be exploring participants' experiences with sibling behaviors, particularly physical and verbal aggression. This study aims to fill a significant gap in the area of family violence to increase awareness, promote prevention of childhood adversity, and facilitate supportive programs for at-risk families and victims of family violence. 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Julie Schatz-Stevens 
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program

May 2021 - May 2022

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on AQ undergraduates?

Gillian Carver

This research project will consist of a survey that will be sent out to all Aquinas College undergraduates. This survey will be a modified version of the Higher Education Research Institution (HERI) of UCLA 2020 survey with added question to address Covid-19. With using this survey we will also compare the HERI survey to our results to see how the AQ students differ especially in these difficult times. Our purpose of doing this project is to investigate the severity of the impact of Covid-19 on AQ undergraduates with the goal of identifying factors that have been helpful. With that in mind, we hope that our results of this study will assist the college in determining ongoing (and possibly new) supports for the student body as we move forward into AY2021-2022.

Faculty Advisor: Daniel Cruikshanks
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program

May 2020 - May 2021

Victoria August

Examining Self-Care Behaviors in Undergraduate Students as a Function of Personality Traits
Victoria August

This research was conceived through a fascination with coping mechanisms employed by college students, in the face of numerous stressors such as managing course work, navigating living on one’s own, and interpersonal pressures. One way students cope with such stressors is to utilize self-care strategies, which involves an attention to basic needs, such as: proper nutrition, sleep, exercise, and social contact in order to support physical/mental health. Combined with an interest in personality psychology, the researchers decided to investigate whether self-care behavior is related to one’s personality traits. Although students’ self-care behaviors have been examined to an extent, particularly medical students, these studies have not as of now taken personality into account (Slonim et al., 2015). In order to rectify the lack of research in this area, the researchers devised a survey combining “The Big Five Personality Test” with a novel “Self-Care Questionnaire” written by the student researcher that gauges students’ personality traits, self-care behaviors, and the perceived effectiveness of these behaviors (Costa & McCrae, 1992). Moreover, the purpose of this research is to build awareness of the importance of self-care, especially in the college student population, and to shed light on the specific personality traits that influence self-care behaviors.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joyce Oates
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program

May 2019 - May 2020

Cooke and Oates

Sexism, Marital Status, Parenthood, and Alcoholism: Examining the Effects of the Single Motherhood Penalty on Socio-Cognitive Perceptions
Julia Cooke

Even though gender equality has increased over the decades, gender disparity persists. Women are still paid less than men and are also subject to discrimination in the workplace based solely on the fact that they may become mothers. Further, there is some evidence indicating that mothers suffering from alcoholism face stigmatization that does not extend to fathers suffering from alcoholism. The goal of this research is to elucidate unique prejudices that mothers, specifically single mothers, face. Although there is research on gender disparity, the motherhood penalty, and alcoholism, there are no experiments combining all of them and specifically examining what we term “the single motherhood penalty”. Therefore, we are conducting a series of experiments that will test the effects that variables such as gender, parental status, marital status, ethnicity, addiction status race/ethnicity, etc., may have on socio-cognitive judgements. Based on the results of this research, we hope to shed light on the plight of single mothers and offer empirical evidence that may be used for policy change for single mothers suffering from alcoholism.

Faculty Advisor: Joyce Oates
Funded by: Summer Scholars Research Grant

May 2018 - May 2019

Time Spent on Collegiate Extracurricular Activities as a Function of Gender
Abigail Tolrud, Fiona Theodoroff and Lauren Washburn

This study evaluates the relationship between collegiate academic success, extracurricular activities and gender. There are 12 different collegiate subcategories evaluated within the population of full-time, undergraduate college students in North America, ages 18 to 25. Results showed statistically significant gender differences for "collegiate sports" and "internships not for class credit."

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joyce M. Oates

Perceived Stress in College Athletes, Those who Exercise, and Sedentary Individuals
Marlin Raymond, Zachary Snyder and Eunice Eyamba

We explored social support, perceived stress, and overall life satisfaction in regards to level of athletic participation. We hypothesized that the participants involved in collegiate athletics would report lower levels of stress compared to those who are not on an athletic team but still exercise and those who are sedentary.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joyce Oates
Funded by: Student Senate Research Fund

The Effects of Social Media and Gender on Anxiety and Depression
Kassidy Boldt, Ivan Plews, McKenzie Breimayer, Brittany Klemish and Demetris Hernandez

We analyzed the effects of social media and gender on anxiety and depression. Our participants, who were between the ages of 18 and 25, took an online questionnaire which included the k10 Anxiety and Depression checklist, and questions about social media use.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joyce Oates

The Relationship Between Need to Belong and Ability to Detect Fake Smiles
Ayaka Matsuda
, Kelly Grant, Melissa Zeffero

This study researches the correlation between a person's generalized Need to Belong and their ability to detect fake smiles. Two hundred forty six participants aged 18-25 completed an online survey that measured their Need to Belong (Leary, 2013) and judged facial images that were used to measure their accuracy in fake smile detection. The results showed that there was a slight negative correlation between Need to Belong and smile detection accuracy, thereby rejecting our initial hypothesis.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joyce Oates

Women and the Influencing Factors Toward Their Sexual Openness, Positivity, and Self-Esteem
Shelby Dewey, Megan Lipka and Stephanie Zimmerman

This study examined the factors that influence a woman's sexual openness, positivity, and self-esteem. We utilized various scales to determine if there was significant correlations between variables. Results showed there were two positive correlations (MoSIEC and MSSCQ; Rosenburg and MSSCQ) and a negative correlation (age and Rosenburg).

Faculty Advisor: Joyce Oates

An Investigation into the Life Views and Perceived Stress Levels of Emerging Adults
Emma Urbanski, Alyssa Peck and Sarah Richards

This research examines the life views and perceived stress levels of emerging adults. Implementing the Inventory of the Dimensions of Emerging Adulthood (IDEA) instrument and the Perceived Stress Scale 4 (PSS-4), we investigated the relationship between gender and both the IDEA subscale scores and PSS-4 scores. We also explored whether or not IDEA subscale scores were predictors of PSS-4 scores.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joyce Oates

The Perception of Quality of Life and Experience of Home in Older Adults
Autumn Ackerson and Melissa Jakupovic

The present study aimed to examine Experience of Home (EoH) and Quality of Life (QoL) as a function of care setting, social connectivity and other participant variables of interest. We recruited older adults from two different care settings (assisted living and independent living) and collected data on EoH, QoL, and participant demographics. We found significantly higher scores in QoL and EoH perception in independent living compared to assisted living. Multiple regression analysis revealed independent setting predicted higher QoL scores, and independent setting and higher education level predicted greater EoH perception.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joyce Oates and Dr. Daniel Cruikshanks

May 2017 - May 2018

Quality of Life and Experience of Home: A comparison of American elderly with elderly in the Dominican Republic
Kacie Gee

In America's youth-oriented culture, elderly persons often age in isolation and tend to permanently relocate into nursing home facilities. Past studies suggest that psychological wellbeing is essential for these older adults as it provides various health benefits and may contribute to successful aging. With nursing home occupancies rising, we found it important to discover what factors promote happiness in older adults and did so by comparing American elders to those who live in a country with drastically different methods of elder care. Quality of life and experience of home was measured among one hundred elderly participants in total: fifty from rural Dominican Republic and fifty from a nursing home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Despite dramatically different living conditions, analyses revealed no statistically significant differences in quality of life or experience of home between the two populations. Despite their unfortunate living conditions and inadequate healthcare, Dominican Republic elders were equally content with both their lives and their living arrangements as the American population. These results suggest that the typical Dominican tradition of elder care within multi-generational family homes provides a kind of social connectivity that mitigates their harsh living conditions. These results help to shape our understanding of quality of life among the elderly and may help to guide improvements in the eldercare system.

Faculty Advisor: Daniel R. Cruikshanks, Ph.D.

student researchers Attitudes Towards Sexual Assault: Influences & Implications
Lena Peak

Our project will explore the relationships among childhood discipline, pornography use, attitudes about women, body satisfaction, sex education, and ideas about sexual assault. Ultimately, it is expected that this research will identify key areas for future sexual assault prevention programming to build from and contribute to a greater understanding of how bystander attitudes are developed in emerging adulthood.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Julie Schatz-Stevens
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program

The Effect of Political Affiliation and Microaggression on the Mental Health of Minorities
Natasha Centeno

The purpose of this study was to research how political affiliation and microaggressions affect the mental health of African Americans and Latino/Hispanics. 50 males and 104 females were used in the study, with a total of 154 participants (N=154). Participants were of African American and/or Latino/Hispanic descent. There was no significance between mixed race and mental illness. There was no correlation between socioeconomic level and mental health and no correlation between education and mental health. We found a significant positive correlation (0.602) between the mental health of participants and the microaggressions that they experienced. This means that greater experiences of microaggressions negatively impacted African Americans and Latinos/ Hispanics mental health.

Faculty Advisor: Cheruba Daniel

May 2016 - May 2017

student researchers

Cultural Anthropology of Romantic Love and Jealousy
Emma Wonsil

Anthropologists contend that romantic love and jealousy are universal phenomena and they found evidence of their occurrences in many cultures. However, cultural values and traditional behaviors can influence the expressions and experiences of love and jealousy. The purpose of this Summer Scholar project is to complete a comprehensive review and analysis of the studies published in anthropological journals on romantic love and jealousy. The goal is to explore the nature of romantic jealousy across modern cultures and present cutting-edge research that has advanced anthropological knowledge on cultural factors affecting the experience, expressions, and customs of romantic jealousy.

Faculty Advisor: Victor Karandashev
Funded by: Aquinas College Summer Scholars Program