Human Development and Social Intervention

Master's Thesis

Thesis Resources

Examples of Previous Culminating Projects

Shavonnea Brown Civic Engagement and Mass Media Use among Adolescents: An Examination of the Relationship between Civic and Political Engagement and Media Use among Youth in France

A sample of 338 French adolescents between the ages of 14 and 17 years old (age M=16.5, SD=2.2) completed a self-reported measure that examined anticipated involvement in three categories of civic and political activities--Social Movement Participation, Commitment to Participation (conventional activities) and Unconventional Participation. The goal of the current study is to identify if media use, along with other individual characteristics (political discussion and demographic variables) significantly predict participation in each of the three categories of civic and political activity. Each of these dependent variables was entered separately into hierarchical regression models. The results indicated that gender significantly predicted participation in social movement and unconventional category of civic and political activity. Girls were more likely than boys to participate in social movement related activities and boy were more likely to participate in unconventional activities. Political discussion with peers significantly predicted participation all three categories of civic and political activity. In contrast, political discussion with parents predicted participation in two categories of civic and political activity-conventional activities and unconventional activities. Radio use significantly predicted participation in conventional and unconventional civic and political activities. Television use negatively predicted participation in unconventional civic and political activities, indicating that youth who spent more time watching television spent less time participating in these activities. Reading the newspaper about issues in France also predicted participation in social movement related civic and political activities. !

Roxane Caires A Meta-Analysis of Programming for Girls Involved and At-Risk of Involvement in the Juvenile Justice System

While the overall rate of juvenile arrest has been decreasing over the past 20 years, girls’ arrests have been increasing when compared to that of boys (Snyder, 2005). Although the increased rates of adjudication for girls implies a need for more interventions, there is a lack of empirical evidence for programs that reduce the risk for system involvement in girls. This study uses meta-analytic techniques to investigate the relationships between program effects and outcomes (including delinquency, recidivism, mental health, and academic) for girls involved in or at risk for involvement in the juvenile justice System. Thirty-five programs reporting on outcomes of delinquency were identified through a rigorous, multi-pronged systematic review of the literature. Results suggested that the overall effect of programming on reducing delinquent behaviors for girls is moderate and positive (Hedges’ g=.293). Further analysis identifies the difference in effect between gender-responsive and gender-neutral programs and reviews common and divergent aims of evaluated programs.

Aida Maria Custode The Impact of Community-Based Intervention on Parenting and Infant Development in a Latina Sample

Promotion of positive parenting for mothers has been well documented as a method of improving child outcomes. For low-income immigrant mothers, who face a variety of risk factors, community-based organizations can provide support and guidance. Little Sisters of the Assumption (LSA) is a neighborhood-based nonprofit which delivers a holistic model of human services to low-income families of East Harlem. LSA provides support for families whose young children (0-3) are most at risk. LSA serves predominantly Latino families, most of whom are recent Mexican immigrants. Children are engaged in evidence-based learning activities targeting four priority areas: (1) language and literacy, (2) play and exploration, (3) self-regulation, and (4) attachment. Each of these areas has been shown to be foundational to learning and later school readiness. LSA seeks to improve these skills by enhancing parental engagement in their daily parent-child interactions. Thirty-one infants and their mothers participated in an evaluation examining parenting practices and infant development in LSA’s four priority areas. Measures of parenting sensitivity and language to children was based on coding of video recordings of mother-child interactions during free play; child language and emotion regulation was assessed through mother report on the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory and child play/exploration were based on children’s focused attention and object exploration of novel toys during solitary play. Maternal sensitivity and infant-directed language was associated with increased language skills and exploration in infants across both groups. Program participation correlations showed moderate effects. However, the magnitude of effects was not significant due to sample size limitations.

Jessica Marie Dinac Oppression-sensitive Programming for Juvenile Justice Involved Girls: Examining a Framework for Social Justice

The growing number of adolescent girls entering the juvenile justice system has spurred research and intervention efforts to target girls’ specific needs. Some studies have suggested a need to understand the contextual factors that influence girls’ decisions and, in turn, pathways to delinquency. Specifically, recent gender-specific models of care have incorporated an explicit framework to target the multiple forces of oppression in girls’ lives (e.g., enhancing critical consciousness, targeting change in girls’ contexts). Despite the potential importance of these approaches, the current literature does not examine or describe the ways in which oppression is instantiated for this population of girls, and how interventions can target these systems. This study aims to examine interpersonal and institutional factors that are tied to systems of oppression and to investigate the ways in which an advocacy program, called ROSES, may have created opportunities for girls to have restorative experiences. Toward this goal, the current study seeks to address two questions: (1) How do girls understand and express how oppression leads to their entry into, or maintains their involvement in, the justice system,? (2) How are these oppression dynamics addressed by girls' experiences with ROSES? We use face-to-face interviews with N=54 justice-involved adolescent girls who completed the ROSES program, and employ open-coding to examine research questions and advance theoretical and applied implications. Findings reveal particular ways in which oppressive dynamics increase girls’ risk for system involvement, and suggest that girls’ involvement with ROSES fostered transformative relationships and generated individual empowerment. Implications for future research are discussed and underscore the importance of examining and targeting the social contexts.

Joeli Katz The Impact of Adherence to Norms of Masculinity on Social and Psychological Adjustment: A Study of Adolescent Boys and Girls

Research over the past few decades has linked boys’ adherence to masculine norms (e.g., physical toughness, emotional stoicism, and autonomy) with low-quality friendships, increased depression, and lower self-esteem. Recent qualitative research suggests that girls are also encouraged by society to adhere to masculine norms. However, little is known about the impact of girls’ adherence to masculine norms on their social or psychological wellbeing. Thus, the present study explores the association of adherence to norms of masculinity on social (e.g., friendship quality) and psychological (e.g., depression and self-esteem) adjustment in girls and boys, and whether these relationships are moderated by gender or race/ethnicity. Data draws from 415 girls and 384 boys (21.5% African American, 28.5% Latino, 21.9% Chinese American, and 28.2% White) collected from seventh to eighth grade. Results have implications for the understanding of the construct of masculinity and how it impacts psychological and social wellbeing for both boys and girls.

Natalie Levy Self-Silencing and Violence in Juvenile Justice Involved Girls

Girls currently comprise 30% of youth involved in the juvenile justice system and represent the fastest growing segment of correctional populations. Indeed, while arrests for violence have been decreasing for boys over the course of the past 20 years, they have been increasing for girls. Despite this alarming trend, there is a dearth of research on incarcerated girls and their pathways to violence and subsequent justice system involvement. We explored girls’ pathways to delinquency by examining self-silencing as a risk factor for girls’ violence, focusing on impulsivity as a behavioral risk factor for violence perpetration. Using a mixed-methods approach, this study examined the extent to which self-silencing is related to impulsivity; (2) investigated the extent to which mental health challenges (e.g., depression) help explain the potential link between self-silencing and impulsivity; and (3) conducted in-depth qualitative analysis of interviews with girls involved in the juvenile justice system to explore the meanings and processes through which self-silencing may promote girls’ use of violence. Our quantitative results (N=148) revealed that self-silencing is correlated with impulsivity, including impulsivity related to attention, cognitive instability, and (lack of) perseverance. Distress was neither a mediator nor a moderator of this relationship. Results of qualitative interviews (N=6) expanded on the quantitative results by suggesting processes linking self-silencing to violence (e.g., snapping), and contrary to quantitative results, suggest that self-silencing elicits distressing emotions. Implications for research and intervention are discussed.

Shizhu Liu Effect of Parental Involvement on Middle School Adolescents' Learning: The Role of Perceived Academic Efficacy and Parent-child Relationship

The study analyzed the model that parental involvement affects adolescents’ academic outcome through their perceived academic efficacy and examined whether the model will be moderated by parent-child relationship by using structural equation modeling (SEM). In this research, 465 African American, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Chinese and White American adolescents from six NYC middle schools did the surveys about parental involvement and family relationship in their 6th grade, perceived academic efficacy in their 7th grade, and academic engagement in their 8th grade. Results showed that parental involvement predicted academic engagement both directly and indirectly through perceived academic efficacy. In addition, if children had better relationship with parents, parental involvement had a stronger positive influence on their academic self-efficacy than those with less good relationship with parents. And ways to improve the quality of future interventions are discussed.

Raisa Martinez Mindfulness in Schools: A Mixed Methods Pilot Study

This mixed-method pilot study combines a quasi-experiment, surveys, and classroom observations to inform future research and interventions involving meditation and other forms of stress reduction in schools. The goals were threefold: 1) Test the effects of meditation on student well-being; 2) Closely study the process involved in implementing meditation programs in schools and other educational settings; 3) Develop the most appropriate measures for use with populations who differ in age and background. It is hoped that the knowledge gained through this process can guide to both researchers and practitioners interested in developing school-based meditation programs and measuring their effects. The research provided evidence that mindfulness practice improved several measures of student well-being and engagement.

Javanna Obregon Latino Caregivers' Language Sophistication: Influences on PreSchool-Aged Children's Language Development

The present study was guided by three questions (1) What are the features of low-income Latino caregivers’ language sophistication? (2) How does low-income Latino caregivers’ language sophistication change over time? (3) Is caregiver language sophistication predictive of low-income Latino children’s oral language and narrative skills across the preschool years? Caregiver-child dyad narrative interactions as well as standardized and naturalistic measures of children’s language abilities were collected from 40 mother-child dyads enrolled in a bilingual Head Start across two years. Caregiver-child dyad narrative interactions were coded for elaborative discourse, lexical sophistication, and syntactic complexity. Results suggest that low-income Latino caregivers use rich language with their children during book-sharing interactions across both years of Head Start. Caregivers’ language sophistication remained stable across both years, except for specific features of syntactic complexity, which demonstrated a significant decrease. Regression analyses indicated that features of caregivers’ language sophistication were differentially predictive of children’s narrative skills, but not their oral language skills. Results are discussed in relation to previous research on caregivers’ language sophistication, as well as the possible applications for language interventions that target low-income Latino caregivers’ and their children.

Derrick Reyes Does Gay-Straight Alliance Support Moderate the Relationship Between Victimization Due to Sexual Orientation and Positive Youth Development?

While the vast majority of literature on LGBTQ youth in school settings focuses on the detrimental disparities and disadvantages affecting this population, emerging research is uncovering factors related to the resiliency and positive youth development of LGBTQ youth. Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) may represent such a factor; student-led, school-based, safe spaces for LGBTQ youth and their heterosexual and cisgendered allies. However, how the level of social support provided by GSA’s may buffer students against the detrimental effects of victimization has never been investigated. This study seeks to decipher the possible moderating effect of perceived social support from GSAs on the relationship between victimization and positive youth development of LGBTQ youth. Although the moderating association was not found, three main associations were found. Victimization was associated with decreased agency, while GSA support was associated with increased sense of purpose, and Non-White race/ethnicity was associated with lower self-esteem.

Lauren Scarola The Influences of Play, Language, and Bilingualism on the Self-Regulatory Development of Latino PreSchoolers

National statistics show that the majority of low-income, Latino children enter kindergarten without the skills necessary for success. As deficits in these areas remain stable over time, research has focused on identifying factors that might predict the positive development of children’s school readiness abilities. Self-regulation is one of the strongest indicators of academic success throughout formal schooling. Past work has identified socio-dramatic play– a common preschool activity in which children role play, and use object and language substitutions as they interact with their peers – as an everyday context that scaffolds the development of self-regulation. However the majority of this work has centered on middle class, White preschoolers, limiting generalizability of these results. Furthermore, language ability –an additional aspect of classroom learning – has been shown to predict positive self-regulatory development. Moreover, language may play a particularly important role for Latino children’s self-regulatory development, as many of these children are dual language learners. Thus, in order to address this gap in the literature, the present study sought to explore the concurrent and longitudinal relation between socio-dramatic play, language, bilingualism, and self-regulation during the preschool years. Fifty Latino preschoolers participated in the present study. Results corroborated previous research showing relations between engagement in play, language abilities, bilingualism, and self-regulation. However, further analyses revealed distinct differences in the relations between engagement in play, language abilities, bilingualism, and self-regulation when comparing emergent bilingual children to monolingual children. Results are discussed in relation to the various factors that may contribute to differential relations amongst emergent bilinguals and monolinguals.

Erdoo Evelyn Tor-Agbidye Private and Social Speech in Five Year-old Children During Challenging Tasks

Vygotsky (1978) noted that children use two forms of speech to help them navigate difficult tasks. Private Speech refers to the self-directed monologue children use to guide themselves through challenging tasks. In contrast, Social Speech or speech directed to other people is used to elicit task-relevant information or help from another person. Five-year old children have been shown to often engage in both forms of speech and at this age through imitation and instructions by others children have a developed understanding of how to best communicate with adults to enrich their learning and understanding of new concepts. Particularly as tasks increase in difficulty children are known to employ one of these forms of speech. Yet, the question of how children utilize communication as a strategy in learning remains to be examined. To address this question, 5-year old children were observed as they were tested on increasingly difficult block building tasks, with an observer sitting across from them. Children’s private (self-directed) and social (examiner-directed) speech was assessed. Our first aim is to determine if there is a change in relative frequency of Private and Social Speech as the task becomes more difficult. Our final aim is to determine if there are any cross cultural differences in how private or Social Speech is used amongst children of Mexican, African American, Chinese and Dominican descent. By measuring the Private and Social Speech elicited by 5 year old children the way children utilize communication when they have had more exposure to speech sheds light on whether or not they use communication as a strategy in their learning.