The diagnosis, etiology, and treatment of various behavioral and mental health issues are investigated. Areas of study include behavioral disorders of childhood, eating disorders, antisocial behavior, substance abuse, depression and anxiety.


 No two people are alike, and our individual differences not only make us unique but also can help explain and predict behavior. It’s those differences in personality and how they contribute to antisocial behavior and substance use that interest Professor Don Lynam in PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCES. His research explores which personality traits are most important to specific outcomes, how early in development these traits become important, and the processes by which these traits have their effects on behavior. “If we know which traits place individuals at risk, then we can develop more specific interventions aimed at those traits,” Lynam says, “and ultimately target interventions to the individuals most in need of them.” His findings show sensation-seeking may be key in predicting experimentation with drugs but not for predicting regular to heavy drug use or antisocial behavior. However, interpersonal antagonism seems to be an important predictor of heavier drug use and also antisocial behavior.


Do social relationships in shared physical activity play a role in well-being and adaptation to adversity? Meghan McDonough, associate professor in HEALTH AND KINESIOLOGY, is examining this question in her research with breast cancer survivors, individuals with Parkinson’s disease, underserved children, overweight women and Special Olympics participants. One concept she has examined is post-traumatic growth, whereby positive outcomes derive from negative experiences. A key finding from her work with breast cancer survivors is that when survivors of a shared traumatic experience have supportive social relationships in group physical activity, posttraumatic growth improves. “If you see another person who’s been through what you’re going through moving on and modeling positive behavior, then you’re much more likely to adopt that behavior yourself,” she says.

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