• EXPLORING THE DEVELOPMENT AND PSYCHOSOCIAL CORRELATES OF SPIRITUALITY /RELIGIOSITY ACROSS ADOLESCENCE

      Good, Marie; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2012-07-30)
      The goal of the four studies that comprised this dissertation was to examine how spirituality/religiosity (SIR), as both an institutional and personal phenomenon, developed over time, and how its institutional (i.e., religious activity involvement) and personal (i.e., sense of connection with the sacred) components were uniquely linked with psychosocial adjustment. In Study 1, the differential longitudinal correlates of religious service attendance, as compared to involvement in other clubs, were evaluated with a sample of adolescents (n=1050) who completed a survey in grades 9, 11 and 12. Religious attendance and involvement in non-religious clubs were uniquely associated with positive adjustment in terms of lower substance use and better academic marks, particularly when involvement was sustained over time. In Study 2, the direction of effects was tested for the association between religious versus non-religious activities and both substance use and academic marks. Participants (n= 3993) were surveyed in grades 9 through 12. Higher religious attendance (but not non-religious club involvement) in one grade predicted lower levels of substance use in the next grade. Higher levels of nonreligious club involvement (but not religious service attendance) in one grade predicted higher academic achievement in the next grade, and higher academic achievement in one grade predicted more frequent non-religious club involvement in the next grade. The results suggest that different assets may be fostered in religious as compared to nonreligious activities, and, specifically, religious activity involvement may be important for the avoidance of substance use. The goal of Study 3 was to assess the unique associations between the institutional versus personal dimensions of SIR and a wide range of domains of psychosocial adjustment (namely, intrapersonal well-being, substance use, risk attitudes, parental relationship quality, academic orientation, and club involvement), and to examine the direction of effects in these associations. Participants (n=756) completed a survey in grades 11 and 12. Personal and institutional dimensions of SIR were differentially associated with adjustment, but it may only be in the domain of risk-taking (Le., risk attitudes, substance use) that SIR may predict positive adjustment over time. Finally, in Study 4, the goal was to examine how institutional and personal aspects of SIR developed within individual adolescents. Configurations of mUltiple dimensions of spirituality/religiosity were identified across 2 time points with an empirical classification procedure (cluster analysis), and sample- and individual-level development in these configurations were assessed. A five cluster-solution was optimal at both grades. Clusters were identified as aspirituallirreligious, disconnected wonderers, high institutional and personal, primarily personal, and meditators. With the exception of the high institutional and personal cluster, the cluster structures were stable over time. There also was significant intraindividual stability in all clusters over time; however, a significant proportion of individuals classified as high institutional and personal in Grade 11 moved into the primarily personal cluster in Grade 12. This program of research represented an important step towards addressing some of the limitations within the body of literature; namely, the uniqueness of religious activity involvement as a structured club, the differential link between institutional versus personal SIR and psychosocial adjustment, the direction of effects in the associations between institutional versus personal SIR and adjustment, and the way in which different dimensions of SIR may be configured and develop within individual adolescents over time.
    • Patterns of Endocrine, Behavioural, and Neural Function Underlying Social Deficits after Social Instability Stress in Adolescent Rats

      Hodges, Travis; Department of Psychology
      Adolescence is a time of social learning as well as a period of heightened vulnerability to stressors and enhanced plasticity, compared with adulthood. Previous research found that repeated social instability stress (SS; daily isolation and return to an unfamiliar peer from postnatal day (PND) 30 - 45) administered in adolescent rats alters social function when tested in adulthood. The main goal of my thesis research was to characterize how SS in adolescent rats affects the development of social brain regions and social behaviour when tested soon after the procedure. In chapter 2, I found that SS potentiated corticosterone release in rats repeatedly paired with an unfamiliar cage-mate after isolation compared with rats that were paired with an unfamiliar cage-mate for the first time after isolation on PND 45. In chapter 3, I found that in social interaction tests (i.e., not in home cage), SS rats had lower social interactions despite having higher social approach with unfamiliar peers relative to control (CTL) rats. Social stimuli carried the same reward value for SS and CTL rats based on tests of conditioned place preference, and SS in adolescence impaired social recognition. Further, SS increased oxytocin receptor density in the nucleus accumbens and dorsal lateral septum in rats compared with CTL rats. In chapter 4, I found that the correlations between time spent in social interaction with an unfamiliar peer and Fos immunoreactivity (a marker of neural activity) in the arcuate nucleus, dorsal lateral septum, and posterior medial amygdala were in the opposite direction in SS rats to those in CTL rats. In chapter 5, I found differences in the expression of proteins relevant for synaptic plasticity and in dendritic arborisation in the lateral septum and medial amygdala. My findings of behavioural and neural differences between SS and CTL rats highlight the heightened vulnerability of the brain to the quality of social experiences during the adolescent period that may lead to long-lasting deficits in social function in adulthood.