Human Development and Family Studies
Relationships, Social Networks, and Media
Recent Research Projects
College Adjustment, Peer/Family Networks and Homesickness
This research focuses on the social environment experiences of undergraduate students. This research is not concentrated on academic performance elements, such as GPA. Rather, it focuses on students' perceptions of their degree of social inclusiveness/fit. This inclusiveness is not restricted to belonging to a specific group (e.g., team, fraternity/sorority, club), but can reflect the ways in which undergraduates feel welcome among classmates or peers. The study has included measurement of factors reflective of family relationships, such as homesickness. In addition, students have completed a questionnaire about the degree of support and/or interference that they receive from the family member who has the most influence on their college experience. Interference does not merely represent an absence of support. Rather, interference can reflect the ways in which a family member might (however unintentionally) make the college experience more difficult. For example, a family member (e.g., parent, sibling) might be highly critical. To date, this research has not measured family members' intents (in providing support or interference) or peers' (e.g., roommates) perception of individuals. Rather, this research has focused on students' perceptions of their own college, peer and family experiences. This focus is consistent with symbolic interactionism theory, which suggests that individuals' perceptions can shape their behaviors and satisfaction with social experiences/relationships.
Relational/Identity Themes in Children's Storybooks about Asian-US adoptive Families
This research focuses on the ways in which aspects of relationships (between siblings or between parents and children) and identity (biculturalism, adoptee) are represented in children's storybooks. Such books matter because they can contribute to children's perceptions of themselves, others and reality. Indeed, Ayres (2004) noted that children's books play a role in what families define as appropriate and important. Identity/relational themes might be particularly relevant in stories about internationally adoptive families. More specifically, this research focuses on the storybooks which feature Asian-born children adopted by US families. This focus aligns with the recent trends that (a) US families have adopted more children from Asian countries (e.g., China, South Korea) than any other region and (b) more US adoptive storybooks (written for a young audience [3-8 years]) feature Asian-born children. To date, the research has entailed qualitative content analysis. More specifically, we (I and a collaborator) have identified common themes in studies of actual adoptive families and then identified whether the same themes are evident in the children's books. This thematic analysis can help determine the extent to which the books align with the experiences of Asian-born adoptees and their adoptive family members. In addition, this analysis can help determine what (if any) acknowledgement of birthfamilies is provided in the books.
In collaboration with colleagues, this research has included studies of various factors which influence romantic/marital relationship quality. For example, this research has examined factors such as personality traits, relationship beliefs, communication processes (self-disclosure, conflict resolution) and couple resilience during the first few years of marriage.
Relational/Psychological Principles in Public Service Announcements
Similar to the prior children's book topic, this research utilizes qualitative content analysis procedures to examine the alignment between relational/psychological principles (e.g., decision-making processes) and public service announcement (PSA) campaigns. This analysis has focused on campaigns relevant to topics such as domestic violence and immunization.
This work focuses on parasocialism, which reflects individuals' connectedness to celebrities and/or fictional characters (e.g., Horton & Wohl, 1956; Cohen, 2003). From a socio-psychological perspective, it is possible for individuals to engage in the same degree of relationship work in parasocialism as with actual other people (e.g., family members, friends, romantic partners). The prior literature on parasocialism does not suggest that this connectedness is inherently inappropriate or destructive (e.g., individuals can't distinguish between fantasy and reality). Rather, the literature suggests that parasocialism is just another venue in which interactions/relationships might occur.
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
This work focuses on students' perceptions of various aspects of teaching and learning experiences. For example, students have completed questionnaires about the strengths and weaknesses of specific inclass activities (e.g., online simulations).
Dr. Jacki Fitzpatrick
Phone: (806) 742-3000
Office: HS 310