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HDP Honors Projects

Selena Baca: Sexual Trauma History and Associated Symptoms Among Treatment-Seeking Male and Female Veterans

Selena Baca

Sexual Trauma History and Associated Symptoms Among Treatment Seeking Male and Female Veterans

Advisor: Carolyn Allard, Psychiatry

Abstract: Experiencing military sexual trauma (MST; Kimerling et al., 2010) and/or child sexual trauma (Mullen, Martin, Anderson, Romans, & Herbison, 1996; Harford, Yi, & Grant, 2014) can negatively influence an individual’s mental health. Greater understanding is needed about how these symptoms manifest depending on sexual trauma history. Specifically, sexual revictimization has been associated with a higher risk of anxiety and affective disorders in civilians (Classen et al., 2005). The current study aimed to extend this research to military personnel, who are at relatively higher risk of experiencing trauma (Stretch, Knudson, & Durand, 1998). Among 296 treatment seeking Veterans who consented to have their clinical data used for research purposes, we hypothesized that those who have experienced sexual revictimization (i.e., both childhood sexual trauma [CST] and military sexual trauma [MST]) would present with more severe PTSD, depression, and suicidality than Veterans who have not been revictimized but experienced CST or MST alone. Of these, 235 patients completed intake self-report symptom severity measures of PTSD (PCL-5), depression (PHQ-9), and suicidality (TSI-2 Suicidality Clinical Scale). After controlling for gender, trauma history was related to all three outcomes. Compared to the CST only group, the revictimized and MST only group had significantly higher PTSD and depression severity scores. Findings support the complexity of sexual trauma history and suggest that providers should carefully screen survivors of sexual revictimization and MST for potential risks of PTSD, depression, and suicidality to facilitate more accurate and therefore effective treatment planning.

Jacob Story: The Roles of Home and School Practices on Executive Function and Emergent Literacy

Jacob Story

The Roles of Home and School Practices on Executive Function and Emergent Literacy

Advisor: Alison Wishard Guerra, Education Studies

Abstract: Children do not grow up in a vacuum: the diverse influences that a child interacts with daily work together to shape all aspects of their life, including their cognitive skills and later academic ability. Executive function is a set of cognitive skills used to control behavior, including executive control, sustained attention, inhibitory control, and compliance. The relationship between these skills and emergent literacy, which predicts later school success, is examined within the context of home literacy practices, family demographics, and teacher-child relationships. Results suggest that home storytelling, rather than reading, plays a significant role in developing executive function skills and emergent literacy and vocabulary skills among low-income preschool children. Furthermore, executive control and sustained attention predict emergent literacy and vocabulary, while behavioral markers of executive function, including compliance and inhibitory control, are not. Implications for research, policy, and practice are discussed.

Alexandria Long: The Effect of Baby sign Language on Infants' Joint Attention Development

Alexandriar Long

The Effect of Baby Sign Language Development on Infants' Joint Attention Development

Advisor: Leslie Carver, Psychology

Abstract: Joint attention is an important part of development that aids infants in learning about their environment through the cues of others. There is gradual development of these skills that begins early in infancy. The current study aimed to explore how the use of baby sign language between infant and caregiver affects the joint attention skills in infants eight to 11 months of age. ESCS protocol was used to evaluate the joint attention skills in two groups of participants, those who used baby sign or who did not. Results suggest stronger joint attention behaviors within the signing group. Implications include the use of sign to support infant social and language development.

Radu Puchiu: Creativity and Autistic Traits in Sub-Threshold Populations

Radu Puchiu

Creativity and Autistic Traits in Sub-Threshold Populations

Advisor: Leslie Carver, Psychology

Abstract: Research studying creativity in populations with autism spectrum disorder has historically focused on the variability of creative output (Firth, 1972; Lewis & Boucher, 1991; Craig & Baron-Cohen, 1999). These studies found that individuals with autism produce less varied responses in creative tasks. This is not surprising since autism spectrum disorder is often accompanied by a resistance to change (DSM 5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013). A more recent study (Best, Arora, Porter & Doherty, 2015) found unusual responses associated with autistic traits. Following this, the current research measured creativity through elaboration, unusual response, and rate of response. The present study measured autistic-like traits in a typically developing population (N=50) using the autism spectrum quotient (Baron-Cohen, 2001). Creativity scores on four novel production tasks were then compared with autism quotient and IQ scores. Results revealed no significant correlations. Time spent completing the creativity task positively predicted creativity scores. Explanations for the findings and implications for the field are discussed.

Sophie Anne Matilda Rushing: Child Perception of Prosody: A Search for the Failing Mechanism

Sophie Anne Matilda Rushing

Child Perception of Prosody: A Search for the Failing Mechanism

Advisor: Sarah Creel, Cognitive Science

Abstract: How does sensitivity to vocal affect cues develop? Stimulated by infant-directed speech, babies are drawn to speech containing large intonation variation (exaggerated prosody). Once young children begin to develop language, however, they seem to lose this sensitivity to intonation. Adults can map the prosodic cues of one syllable to an emotional state, yet four to nine year olds fail at gathering even basic emotional information from tone. So why is it that young children, rapidly increasing their vocabulary, social skills and ability to communicate, fall short in the understanding of prosody? One possibility is that they literally cannot distinguish the pitch cues that differentiate affective states. Another possibility is that they can distinguish the cues auditorily, but they have not yet mapped these inflections to their corresponding emotional states. The current study tested these hypotheses by asking preschool aged children to (1) discriminate between the same words with happy and sad prosody, and (2) match single words containing happy/sad cues to happy and sad faces. Results suggest that children’s weak processing of vocal affect may be due to the inefficiency of attending to pitch differences. We can, therefore, see that full comprehension of other’s emotional states through vocal communication is a cognitive process that continues to develop through preschool years.

Tessa L Arsenault: Does Childhood SES Influence Language Processing in Adulthood?

Tessa L Arsenault

Does Childhood SES Influence Language Processing in Adulthood?

Advisor: Jeff Elman, Cognitive Science

Abstract: Past research suggests that socioeconomic status (SES) effects language development; in fact, children from higher SES backgrounds have higher vocabulary levels and have more efficient language processing skills than children from lower SES backgrounds (Fernald and Marchman, 2010). Such differences are believed to be due to the amount and kind of language input children receive in the household (Hart & Risley, 1995). It remains unknown how SES will affect language processing skills later in development. This study hypothesized that adults from higher SES backgrounds have faster linguistic processing skills than adults from lower SES backgrounds. To test the hypothesis, a sample of UC San Diego undergraduate students were tested on SES, through a questionnaire based on the Hollingshead Four Factor index (Hollingshead, 1975), and. language processing skills, through an eye-tracking task measuring fixations on a picture corresponding to a sentence theme. The results suggested that participants who had higher maternal Hollingshead scores fixated on the target sooner than participants who had maternal Hollingshead scores.

Julie Avanzino: Individual Differences in Speed of Auditory Processing and Language in Young Children

Julie Avanzino

Individual Differences in Speed of Auditory Processing and Language in Young Children

Advisor: Gedeon Deak, Cognitive Science

Abstract: Specific language impairment is a developmental language-based learning disorder which affects approximately 6 to 8 percent of children entering kindergarten. The etiology of specific language impairment is currently unknown. One prevalent hypothesis concerning the mechanism underlying the language deficits of children with specific language impairment is the rapid auditory processing hypothesis: children with specific language impairment have difficulty in efficiently processing rapidly occurring auditory events such as rapid frequency transitions within the speech stream (Benasich & Tallal, 2002). Previous research looking at temporal auditory processing thresholds in school-age children and infants has elicited evidence in support of this hypothesis. However, rapid auditory processing has yet to be investigated in toddlers and preschoolers, an important age range for language acquisition. I will be reporting the results of a pilot study for a new behavioral paradigm which was created to measure temporal auditory processing thresholds in young children.

Courtney E. Froehlig: Assessment of Psychosocial Functioning in School-Age Children with Cystinosis and Implications for IDEA Eligibility

Courtney E. Froehlig

Assessment of Psychosocial Functioning in School-Age Children with Cystinosis and Implications for IDEA Eligibility

Advisor: Doris Tranuer, Neurosciences

Abstract: The perception of cystinosis has shifted from a non-neurological medical disease to one which can cause neurologic impairments and affect overall cognitive processing. The academic problems that children with cystinosis experience could potentially qualify them for Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) in the United States under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The criteria for receiving an IEP outlined in IDEA effectively requires below-average test scores unless the disorder is considered highly predictive of poor academic performance. While this act defines the standard by which children are deemed to require special education in the U.S., parents of children with cystinosis have difficulty utilizing its provisions because the effects of cystinosis on brain development and overall functioning are not widely known. The IEP testing process results in delayed responses from teachers and prevents students from receiving proper intervention before their problems become more severe. This study examines psychosocial functioning in school-age children with cystinosis by comparing a group of children with cystinosis to a group with diabetes and to a control group of typically developing children. Packets of questionnaires were mailed to participating families and completed separately by children and parents. Children with cystinosis reported a significantly lower quality of experience in school and health activities than did those in the control group. Parents of children with cystinosis reported significantly lower assessments of their children’s motor skills than did those of the control group. These findings suggest that children with cystinosis could be considered at risk for experiencing academic problems.

Grace Rasmusson: Perspective Taking in Elementary School Children

Grace Rasmusson

Perspective Taking in Elementary School Children

Advisor: Gail Heyman, Psychology

Abstract: In an effort to explore the role of egocentrism in perspective taking tasks, the present study examined whether participants would increase their egocentric errors when given the incentive not to. To simulate everyday communicative scenarios, 51 pairs of third and fourth grade students participated in a referential ‘guessing game’; in which students were assigned to speaker and listener roles. Speakers were instructed to describe a target drawing so it could be correctly identified by the listener. The experiment included two subject groups, one in which the participants were simply instructed to describe the target item and one in which the speaker was provided with instruction to conceal privileged information that was visible to the speaker, yet hidden from the listener. Results suggest that speakers tended to modify target descriptions with respect to hidden information. These present findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that children, like adults are prone to favoring their egocentric perspective in their referential communication. In addition, results suggest children avoided the egocentric bias seen in adults as they did not modify target description when provided the added instruction to conceal. The present experiment examined the ability of participants to adopt the perspective of their communicative partners in language production and provided insight to the developmental origins of the patterns observed in adult speakers.