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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Welcome to the UC Merced Undergraduate Research Journal, a fully Open Access publication of research conducted by undergraduates at the University of California, Merced.


Antisocial Personality Disorder: Cognitive and Emotional Functioning

It is currently the case that research on the personality disorder known as antisocial personality disorder, or ASPD, is still making progress. Much about the disorder remains unknown such as its origins and how to properly treat ASPD. The purpose of the following literature review is to examine current research regard ASPD and individuals with the personality disorder. The actions and symptomology of those with the personality disorder have been thoroughly well documented and examined. However, it is essential to have a stronger understanding of the cognition and emotional functions of those with ASPD. With better understanding and research on the ASPD and cognitive and emotional functioning there could perhaps be more beneficial ways to treat those with the disorder. The primary focus of the following literature review will be on ASPD as it relates to cognitive processing and emotional functions and the current research regarding the subject.

Classification of Symptoms in Victims of Bullying

Although Western societies have begun to take bullying more seriously in the past few decades, the negative effects of bullying on victims remain in a diagnostic limbo, making access to adequate treatment difficult. Currently, a debate is taking place among psychologists as to whether bullying should be established as a causal precursor of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – if bullying were established as a causal precursor of PTSD, victims could more easily receive treatment for their symptoms through PTSD treatment methods. To determine which side of the debate is correct, this literature review analyzed research that links bullying effects with PTSD symptomology and assesses whether the arguments of each side of the debate are valid. Analysis of literature revealed that symptoms of bullying victimization satisfy the diagnostic criteria for PTSD as stated by the DSM-V, and that while arguments against the establishment of bullying as a causal precursor of PTSD are flawed, arguments for the establishment are better supported. This literature review concludes with a discussion on best possible treatment methods for victims of bullying.

Classifying Nomophobia as Smart-Phone Addiction Disorder

Can people become addicted to using their smart phones? To explore this possibility, this literature review summarizes previous research on smart-phone addiction, nomophobia, and addictive personality disorders. Specifically, this review defines smart-phone addiction and its symptoms along with comorbid disorders and uses disciplines from a cognitive, behavioral, neurobiological, and anthropological disciplines as evidence of its existence. Although this review also found that there is little research on nomophobia and smart-phone addiction, it argues that this should be a call for recognition of growing use smart-phone and potential behavioral addictions they pose. This review also suggests that nomophobia, the anxiety experienced from loss of a smart-phone, is not a specific phobia but rather a withdrawal symptom and proposes that “Smart-phone addiction disorder” be included in future revisions of the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders.

The Impact of Maternal Depression on Children’s Growth and Development

There has been literature presented that demonstrates the impact of maternal depression on children’s growth and development. We will see in this literature review some of the factors that hinder this development. For example, the lack of maternal sensitivity, which is lack of affection, responsiveness, and attention influences children’s social engagement, fear regulation, and cortisol levels. Other aspects of development that are impacted are cognitive, motor, and language development. This is important because most of what the mother does and how she portrays herself reflects onto the child. Maternal depression begins to impact child growth and development from the time the fetus is developing in the womb. However, it is also important to see how the infant is affected after they are born and how maternal sensitivity and emotional availability play a role in their development. The majority of participants in the different studies were mother-child dyads. Mothers were between the ages of 20 and 40 years and children under the age of 12 years. Women between 10 to 20 weeks of gestation were also recruited to assess how prenatal depression affected the fetus. Most common measures in the different studies consisted of structured clinical interviews for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders (SCID-D) to diagnose mothers with Major Depressive Disorder. Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and Beck’s Depression Inventory were also used to determine the severity, occurrences, and the extent of the depression. Demographics of participants varied in socio-economic status and education.

The Importance of Advocating for Oral Health Education Programs on College Campuses: Original Research on the Systematic Examination of Oral Health Beliefs among College Student Minorities

Consistent oral hygiene habits are paramount for the efforts to preserve our overall health. Minimal research has been conducted focusing on college students and more specifically, those classifying as minorities. By narrowing down the field of oral health research to college educated minorities, such as Asian and Hispanic individuals, it is evident that there is a lack of oral education programs available to these individuals. Research focused on college students enables common misconceptions to be identified. Thus, systemic examinations need to be conducted regarding various oral health beliefs in an academic environment. This study investigates oral health beliefs of university students classifying as minorities in efforts to provide new insights as to why common misconceptions are held, even at an educated level. An oral health survey of 829 students was conducted at the University of California, Merced in the Fall of 2015. Most of these students self-identified as Latino (51%) or Asian (22%). A significant number of UC Merced minority students exhibited inaccurate oral health knowledge, which consequently may predispose individuals for a higher risk of developing poor oral hygiene. Oral health misconceptions may have been overlooked and therefore, universities need to provide educational advocacy programs to promote effective hygienic oral practice.

Understanding the Causes Health Disparities among the Homeless

800,000 Americans are currently homeless (Wen, Hudak, & Hwang, 2007). Homeless individuals suffer from a myriad of preventable and chronic physical and mental health issues creating a health disparity among the homeless in comparison to general health population. This literature review defines the term “episode of care” and suggests that understanding the episode of care is an effective health intervention that may alleviate the apparent health disparities among the homeless. The episode of care consists of healthcare access, utilization, and the typical treatment plan for the homeless. This paper examines three major barriers that hinder the homeless from access and utilization of healthcare which are Socio Economic Status (SES), u­­­ncompassionate Stereotype Threat and the comorbidity of mental health and substance abuse among the homeless. The implication of this paper were the gaps that were not addressed due to the general dearth of research on the subject. Future research should investigate how the Affordable Care Act (2010) impacts the health of the homeless since its aim is to provide health insurance for the entire US population.

Establishing a Standardized Measurement Tool for children with ASD for use in PECS research

Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) face a variety of challenges such as the inability to communicate verbally. The Picture Exchange Communication System is an early intervention program that has shown to increase the verbal communication skills of some children with ASD. However, how PECS increases verbal communication in some children with ASD is unknown. To understand how PECS leads to verbal communication in some children with ASD, researchers must use a consistent set of reliable measures with specific groups of children with ASD. This literature review analyzed the three most frequently used standardized measurement tools used to assess children with ASD in PECS research; Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS), Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), and the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS). VABS is a measure which can determine intellectual disability. VABS should be used with children that begin PECS without any verbal skills. ADOS is a measure used to support an ASD diagnosis. ADOS should be used with all children that are placed in the PECS program, with low functioning to high functioning ASD. CARS can retrospectively measure the abilities of a child with ASD. CARS should be used with children with ASD that begin using PECS at a later age.

Environment and Health: A Literature Review on College Student’s Risk Behavior

A college student’s health dynamic consists of their environment, behavioral choices, and their mental stability.  Their environment influences many of the risk behaviors they choose to take part in.  The World Health Organization defines risk behaviors or risk factors as any attribute, characteristic or exposure of life style activities that put an individual at an increased likelihood of developing particular conditions, illness, or injury to themselves or others (2016).  Risk behaviors like drug and alcohol consumption, sexual practices, and eating habits have been recognized by researchers to have a negative impact in college students’ future health.  Mental health is also an important aspect in college students’ health dynamic as it can determine external choices like drugs use or vice versa.  Mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community (World Health Organization, 2016).  These are all aspects that are interrelated in how college students develop their health.

How effective are treatments for improving interpersonal relationships among veterans with PTSD?

Combat related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most common type of trauma. Veterans with PTSD often times have conflicts with their interpersonal relationships. Recent research suggest that the worsening of PTSD symptoms will put veterans at risk for more interpersonal relationship conflicts, therefore treatment programs are needed in order to minimize them both. This paper first considers studies of the importance of a good social support and then looks at studies underlining the significance of a positive family functioning for minimizing PTSD symptom clusters. It will also address other studies that have looked into different factors such as comorbidity and domestic violence. The examination of these treatments points out limitations and suggest the need for future research to look into the long term effects of the treatments and also focus on addressing and evaluating other factors that may play a role in the effectiveness of treatment programs. As well as creating programs that are not just for veterans, but also for soldiers that are returning from deployment.

The Neuropsychological Effects of Exercise: A New Prescription for Healing

The rates of physical inactivity in America have skyrocketed in the past several decades, and still appear to be increasing. This has led to a slew of illnesses, both physiological and psychological, and it is critical that it be reversed. More and more in recent times, health professionals are turning to pharmaceuticals to treat the ailments of their patients, when instead they should first look at how their patients can help themselves with exercise. In this paper, I have outlined a small selection of the vast positive effects that can come from regular physical activity. These effects include improvements in mood, the reduction of mental illness such as depression, and benefits to cognition. The collection of findings in this paper can be used to demonstrate to health professionals and policy makers alike that physical activity is a critical key to solving America’s health crisis.

Weight Discrimination: Beliefs and Stereotypes Regarding Race and Health

The perception of weight discrimination can have devastating effects on an individual’s life outcomes. Weight discrimination can negatively impact social interactions, emotional well-being, as well as physical health. The combined effects of discrimination based on race and weight are of special interest, because it is likely that overweight racial minority groups like Black and Hispanic individuals will exhibit worse health outcomes than similarly overweight White individuals. Research indicates that the psychosocial effects of racial discrimination, plus weight discrimination can exacerbate problematic behaviors in minority group members, but not so much in racial majority members. Our survey results reinforced what previous research has already stated, that Black and Hispanic individuals are most likely to suffer from obesity, racial discrimination, and socioeconomic issues. Furthermore, the results also showed that participants viewed White individuals as having fewer obesity and socioeconomic problems. Although discrimination continues to persist, healthcare providers and social institutions must strive to take a stand for all overweight individuals, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.