Monday, September 18, 2017

OSCAR Student Margaret Morison Researches the Effects of Childhood Traumas on Parenting Behaviors

My name is Margaret Morison and I am a senior Psychology student working under Dr. Tara Chaplin.  The project I am working on for the OSCAR program is about the effects of childhood trauma on parenting behaviors. My research interests have centered around interpersonal violence for quite awhile now, usually pertaining to the individuals directly involved. After working in Dr. Chaplin’s lab as an undergraduate research assistant (RA), I gradually became interested in the effects of violence and/or trauma on families. Outside of school and my position as an RA, what also contributed to my interest in trauma and families is my volunteer position at a domestic violence shelter in Arlington, VA. Taking a trauma-informed approach to clients and their children is something I consider to be crucial in my interactions at the shelter. The opportunity to contribute to the literature on the effects of trauma is incredibly rewarding!

In the future, I hope to enter into a Clinical Psychology PhD program. A large part of what these programs look for is an ability to conduct research. The experience I have gained in conducting my own research project has not only given me an example of my ability to succeed in academia, but the confidence to keep pushing towards this goal. I hope to contribute to the growing body of psychological literature and use this knowledge to assist individuals. 

On a weekly basis, a large part of what I do is reading the existing literature on trauma and certain parenting behaviors. Much of the data used in my project is collected through Dr. Chaplin’s large, longitudinal study on adolescent substance use and psychopathology. When working with participants, I lead them through a series of interviews, surveys, and physiological measures. The second largest part of what I have been doing weekly is cleaning, analyzing, and interpreting data, using both Excel and SPSS software. 

Throughout this project, I’ve learned a great deal about statistical techniques and ways to effectively communicate findings. I’ve also come to see the complexity of the effects of childhood trauma. Many individual variables contribute to how trauma affects the survivor. While this does make untangling the connections in research more difficult, I am confident that psychological scientists will be able to do so through the creative statistical techniques and innovative methodologies that have been, and are being, developed.