Substance Use, Mental and Behavioral Heath, and Sociology

Recorded five-minute video presentations for the Undergraduate Scholarly Showcase in Category E: Substance Use, Mental and Behavioral Heath, and Sociology, Projects E-01 through E-10.

E-01: DIVERSITY: Delicate and Influential Variables Enhancing or Regressing Social and Emotional Development

Sydney Braine, Substance Abuse Counseling
Savannah Schmeh, Substance Abuse Counseling
Chasity Conner, Substance Abuse Counseling
Project Advisor: Laura Nabors
Watch presentation

This presentation will explore the diverse needs of children aged 5-12 years who have at least one parent/caregiver seeking treatment for a substance use disorder. First, an analysis of peer-reviewed research and scholarly articles published in the past five years will be conducted. Abstracts will be reviewed to determine if manuscripts meet criteria by addressing children's socio-emotional development (aged 5-12). Next, information on the methods and outcomes of studies will be examined, and results will be synthesized. Finally, we will present our findings: interpreting outcome data and discussing supportive, evidence-based interventions to improve the socio-emotional functioning of young children whose parents face addiction. We will articulate concepts for interventions and techniques to improve socio-emotional development and functioning for children. We will present innovative ideas to support young children and suggest designs for health professionals and substance use counselors who serve this vulnerable population. This subject is important because children of parents dealing with substance use disorders can experience a range of socio-emotional difficulties. Through examination of the latest studies, we will enlighten practitioners and researchers, identifying practical ideas for use by substance use counselors.  The insights we share will go beyond theory-they are assured to inform interventions that could significantly improve youth's social and emotional development. We aim to convert research into practical, knowledgeable, tangible, and enriching interventions professionals can use to support children. Research on interventions to improve child functioning is critical, as there is potential to change lives forever.

E-02: Examining the Presenting Status of Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and How Biological Sex Impacts These Symptoms

Kelsey Bauer, Social Work
Project Advisor: Gary Dick
Watch presentation

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability often characterized by a deficit in social, behavioral, and cognitive function. Most commonly this disorder is associated with one, or both of the following; difficulty in productive and reciprocal social communication, and repetitive and restrictive behaviors or interests. This diagnosis is rapidly increasing as research continues to develop. One such developing portion of this research is the institutional injustices facing families of diverse gender, cultural, or ethnic experiences. In this research study, I focused on gender, primarily biological sex, and how it creates an impact on a person's experience with recognizing symptoms, receiving a diagnosis, and participating in a provided intervention. To do this, I examined the presenting status of 10 school-age children involved with the Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention Program at Transitions Behavioral Health. All children have a diagnosis of ASD, 5 are assigned male at birth, and the other 5 are assigned female. Using their past and currently developing documented interventions and progress, I examined each of their individual experiences and symptoms. I found that not only was it easier to find boys to study, but when I did have a complete sample the boy's symptoms were more related to severe stereotyped behaviors such as repetitive and reciprocal behaviors and interests, whereas the girl's stereotyped behaviors were much more internal. Internal in regards to deficits in reciprocal social communication. This difference is causing women to experience late diagnoses, misdiagnoses, and missing early intervention in general.

E-03: Treatment Modalities That are Most Efficient in Helping Children ages 5-12 with Depression and Anxiety

MacKynzi Vonderhaar, Social Work
Project Advisor: Gary Dick
Watch presentation

This study was conducted to observe the most efficient treatment modalities for children ages 5-12 who experience anxiety and/or depression. There are many different opinions on what treatment modalities are most efficient and effective for children ages 5-12 who experience anxiety and depression, it's somewhat of a controversial topic. In this study, 6 children ranging in age from 5-12 years old were given group-based therapy and individual-based therapy. The data was observed and collected to see which of the two treatment modalities was most efficient in helping them combat their anxiety and depression while teaching them strategies to lessen the effect of their anxiety and depression on their daily lives. Most children in the study showed that individual-based therapy was more efficient in helping them with their anxiety and depression.

E-04: Use of Motivational Interviewing in Substance Use Counseling for Adolescents Coping with Addiction

Kell Hicks, Substance Abuse Counseling
Isabella Miller, Substance Abuse Counseling
Shanice Southern, Substance Abuse Counseling
Project Advisor: Laura Nabors
Watch presentation

The adolescent years can be turbulent emotionally, socially, and biologically. The change from childhood to adolescence brings new challenges to maintaining one's mental well-being, like social development, finding a sense of belonging, and in Erik Erikson's developmental theory, finding a "sense of identity in occupation, sex roles, politics, and religion" (, n.d.). Some adolescents seek out brief relief from the emotional toll of adolescent development from alcohol and drugs. Other adolescents use alcohol and drugs and label their behavior as "fun". Regardless of the impetus, when the time comes that usage and using behavior becomes problematic, many methods of intervention are available to the willing helpers and clinicians that work to assist adolescents toward recovery. Of these many interventions, this team will study the effectiveness of Motivational Interviewing as it is used to treat adolescents with substance abuse disorders in both group and individual settings. We will use a scoping review of peer-reviewed studies in PubMed, PsycNet, and Google Scholar, from the past two years to identify interventions that work and discuss areas of intervention that still need improvement for employing Motivational Interviewing based on research. We will present ideas for applying this technique to help adolescents and provide our ideas for moving research in this field ahead to assist adolescents and their families.



E-06: Factors of Substance Use Disorder: The Marijuana Gateway Hypothesis

Heidi Krimmer, Social Work
Project Advisor: Gary Dick
Watch presentation

The Marijuana Gateway Hypothesis proposes the idea that marijuana usage increases the likelihood of an individual using harder substances such as cocaine, heroin, or other illicit drugs. The aim of this study is to investigate whether or not marijuana usage leads individuals with substance use disorder to use other substances. This study will focus on other risk factors of addiction such as genetic predisposition, social environment, pre-existing mental health conditions, and age of first use. Surveys completed by individuals in recovery from substance use disorder will provide insight on how marijuana usage contributed, if at all, to the development of addiction as well as other contributing factors of addiction.

E-07: Exploring the Influence of Spatial Design on Substance Use Behavior

Elizabeth Crowey, Architecture and Criminal Justice
Project Advisor: Sarah Manchak
Watch presentation

This research aims to redefine spatial designs that impact substance use behaviors and address the shortcomings in deterrence or recidivism stemming from these inadequate designs. The goal is to break the cycle within the justice system across various community settings, correctional facilities, and reentry processes by examining how confined spaces influence certain behaviors. Through qualitative research, the study begins with a literary analysis to comprehensively understand each component's role. The ultimate objective is to develop improved spatial designs that discourage substance use and reduce involvement in criminal activities or reincarceration.

E-08: Dyadic Coordination in an Online Time Estimation Task

Adam Barrett, Psychology and English
Benjamin Gerber, Psychology
Project Advisor: John Holden
Watch presentation

Pairs of individuals were asked take repeatedly turns estimating 3/4 of a second. Each participant completed 1100 trials in sessions that lasted approximately 75 minutes. The goal was to test for signs of synchronization and coordination in the participants successive judgments. Previous research established entrainment in an unperson version of the task. This study was aimed at assessing the degree to which coordination is evident in a spatially distributed online version of the task. Spectral or Fourier analysis is used to test for coordination.

E-09: The Influence of Happiness on Children's Math Learning Behaviors

Sona Hakobyan, Neuroscience - Neuropsychology Concentration
Project Advisor: Heidi Kloos
Watch presentation

Many students struggle to learn math and feel encouraged to practice often. In our study, we questioned whether students' mood on a certain day may affect their behavior when practicing math. For example, were students who felt more happy more likely to finish their work in class. In-class data was given for research purposes from public schools in order to gauge their improvement in math learning through the use of a math practice program. During each day, each student was required to complete a math problem set of their choice. The number of problem sets the students each student completed each day was also measured.  At the end of each day, students reported their mood for that day on written surveys. Adults were also asked about this information. In particular, students were asked whether they were happy on that day or not. There was also the option for students to mark that they were unsure of their mood during that day. Initial results indicated no relationship between happiness and children's learning behavior.

E-10: Enduring Poverty: A Historical and Contemporary Analysis of Human Rights and Cobalt Mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Brittany Theodore, Sociology
Project Advisor: Steven Carlton-Ford
Watch presentation

This study explores the multifaceted dynamics of human rights violations and cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It delves into the historical context of exploitation and the contemporary challenges faced by communities involved in mining industries. By examining the cyclical nature of poverty perpetuated by forced labor and artisanal mining, the research elucidates the intricate mechanisms through which poverty is reproduced in the DRC. The country's vast cobalt reserves have made it a focal point for global demand, leading to the proliferation of industrial mines alongside informal artisanal operations. However, this rapid expansion of cobalt extraction has resulted in forced evictions, inadequate compensation, and hazardous working conditions for local communities. Particularly vulnerable populations, such as women and children, are disproportionately affected, facing heightened risks of violence, exploitation, and adverse health outcomes. Moreover, the environmental impact of mining activities exacerbates health hazards, further entrenching poverty in affected areas. Despite the DRC's ratification of human rights treaties, the pervasive influence of the global cobalt market continues to perpetuate a cycle of enduring poverty. By shedding light on these interconnected issues, this research aims to inform strategies for sustainable development and social justice in resource-rich regions like the DRC.