With straight faces sprinkled with the occasional nose ring, three female psychology graduate students sit on the leather couches in the Brown Library.
Presenting in Houston at the Southwestern Psychology Association convention in mid-April, these students have learned to juggle classes and various research projects all while trying to advance their studies and provide the best presentation possible for their designated topic titled Parenting Variables and Offspring Adjustment: Conclusions, Considerations, and Conjectures – a study based off the different types of parenting styles and how they affect children within the realms of their maturity, social media anxiety and attitudes towards seeking therapy.
Kylie Richter, clinical psychology major from Valley View, said the presentation will be broken up between the three based off the subtopic each person chose. Richter, the most elaborate and detailed of the three, said her portion of the research primarily focused on the idea of the fear of “missing out” when they are not live on social media and what type of parenting style is correlated to such behavior.
Based off her initial hypothesis, Richter found that more participants with neglectful parents would have a higher rate of fear of missing out and therefore, connect to other theories such as social media jealousy and the need to constantly be updated on someone’s life, relationship or status.
“Based off what I found, if you have a high level of fear of missing out, you are more likely to engage in those abusive social media behaviors,” Richter said. “You’re more likely to constantly check your phone or be constantly checking updates, or if your phone is in the other room, you have withdrawal symptoms because you have a fear of missing out. And then, neglectful parenting styles were more associated with the fear of missing out.”
Combining both her current findings and her previous research, Richter is eager to see how this study can impact future education for other scholars and practices.
“A lot of my undergraduate research dealt with social media jealousy and how that plays into relationships,” Richter said. “So, with the way technology is growing and people are more constant on their phones 24/7 – the comparison between the amount of time people are checking their social media accounts and how that is affecting our lives. Just from my past and experience with cyberbullying, I wanted to know what kids are going through these days because as we get older there are resources that we aren’t aware of, and just figuring out what is causing certain things and hopefully, this progresses the research to find other things.”
Revolving around different aspects of parenting styles and behaviors, each researcher has taken the responsibility to thoroughly understand her portion of the study. Sarah Gallup, clinical psychology major from The Woodlands, said it was important for each member of the group to invest the necessary time and effort for their presentation.
With a stillness in her voice and a ‘no nonsense’ type of personality, Gallup decided to focus her portion of the study on the communication between college students and parents and whether it hindered or helped the students’ performance and maturity.
Gallup said she first became interested in the concept of codependency after seeing the effects of it within her own family and through her own experience as a college student.
“In my undergraduate years, I would call my mom all the time, like literally every day with some sort of panic, but it just took some time for me to transition,” Gallup said, revealing a faint smile. “But for the people who don’t know how to do things on their own, that codependency could cause some negative outcomes. They could become more depressed and not develop that self-efficiency and be dependent on their parents so much. I’ve definitely overcame it.”
After receiving the data, Gallup was sure she had the right hypothesis. Viewing codependency as a negative outcome, Gallup was shocked to find that codependency for students with their parents was shown as a primarily a healthy relationship.
“If someone is more codependent on their family, I always thought that would make them more depressed, and so I was just curious on how that codependency could affect their well-being and their self-efficiency,” Gallup said. “My interest is in parenting styles and how that was implemented in my childhood.”
And with a simple yet sharp tone, Gallup said “but, of course, more research needs to be made.”
Juggling other projects at the same time, including a study on emotional support animals and motivational success, Gallup hopes to continue her codependency study by researching how technology plays a role – does having a cell phone make it easier to let go of parents or harder?
Taking a completely different route, Kaylee Jackson, clinical psychology major from Kempner, decided to take a more analytical approach.
Realizing the social media issues addressed in Richter’s study and codependency tactics in Gallup’s, Jackson wondered why millennials aren’t attending therapy. Jackson said she had begun to notice the various issues and problems millennials were going through and wondered why they won’t seek guidance from a therapist. Could it be that depending on the parenting style of the millennial directly correlated their chances and views of seeking outside help?
In a very casual fashion, Jackson said the reason millennials keep many of their issues to themselves or splash them across their Facebook statuses is because they choose not to seek therapy.
“Given that our generation has this really big negative connotation surrounding us and society telling us that we are terrible, the question is ‘why aren’t we going to therapy as much?'” Jackson said.
Within her project, Jackson categorizes the characteristics associated with millennials including entitlement, narcissism and helicopter parenting and see if they play a role toward the attitudes toward therapy.
“Our attitudes are a good indicator of whether we will engage in a specific activity or not,” Jackson said. “Our hypothesis is that higher levels of narcissism, entitlement and helicopter parenting will all show negative attitudes toward therapy and seeking it out. It’s interesting because it’s becoming more and more destigmatized towards therapy and that it’s OK to see someone. Yet, there are still these barriers that are keeping millennials from seeking it out and figuring out why that is.”
While she is still in the data collecting process, Jackson hopes the stigma surrounding the idea of therapy will cease.
“I think it’s important for everyone to go to therapy,” Jackson said as Richter and Gallup respond with “preach,” “amen” and “I second that.”
Responding to Jackson’s remark, Gallup said she believes everyone can grow, and you don’t have to have a problem to seek therapy.
“I think it’s helpful, and to have someone there just listening to you is great,” Gallup said.
“Just to have someone unbiased listen to you, and you’re constantly surrounding yourself with people who think like you, so you never get a second opinion on anything,” Richter said. “Therapy is dedicated to just you, and it’s kind of empowering to go.”
“Yeah, therapy is a place that is just dedicated to you and only you, and it’s just this place where you can say whatever you want, and it’s different than going to your parents or friends,” Jackson said. “Going to therapy doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. Go to therapy for anything and everything.”
As future therapists and current researchers, Jackson said it’s important to research broad topics like parenting styles and its minor components. With hopes of graduating soon, these students understand the necessity of conducting valid research for future scholars and practices.
“Good research produces good practice, and good practice informs good research,” Jackson said. “For us to be practitioners, I think we have to know what works. As therapists, it’s really easy to sit in a room for fifty minutes and just not do a whole lot. But in research, we have to know what works for our clients and what is keeping people from coming into our offices. I think it’s important to inform practitioners.”
Along the same lines, Richter and Gallup agreed that it is important to know the causes for some of these issues in order to know how to help. Within her own research, Richter wants to know how can scholars find a way to keep students from the fear of missing out – what solutions can be made to adjust to their anxiety ingrained lifestyle?
“Research kind of builds upon itself,” Richter said. “By educating ourselves along the way, we can provide the best care possible.”
“Kind of like what she said, as researchers, it’s important to add to the literature on what’s already out there,” Gallup said. “It’s important because our generation is always changing.”
Scrambling to write their thesis and last presentation notes before the big symposium, the three return to their laptops and daily tasks in swift as the focused graduate students they are.