An almost 50-year fascination with China led Professor Steve Cohn, Charles W. and Arvilla S. Timme Chair in E...
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Major in Psychology, Minor in Creative Writing
What motivated you to become a McNair Scholar?
I thought it was a great opportunity to look into because the program really helps students get ready for graduate school in a variety of ways. As I'm a first-generation college student who aims to get a doctorate in psychology, the program seemed like a perfect match for my future academic goals. Finding out that I had to construct my own research project was exciting because it was a way for me to apply what I was learning in my psych classes to my own personal interests and curiosities.
What is your research about?
My research is on the relationship between mental illness, psychological abuse, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with a focus on abuse severity and how whether someone has a mental illness before they are psychologically abused affects the severity of the PTSD. While studying PTSD in my Clinical and Abnormal Psychology (PSYC 277) class, I discovered that psychological abuse wasn't specified as traumatic by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM-5). We also learned that individuals with other mental illnesses are more likely to have PTSD after a traumatic event. I noticed a triangle: mental illness was related to PTSD as a risk factor, psychological abuse was not defined as traumatic but certainly produced traumatizing results, and those with mental illness were prone to be victims of abuse. I wanted to get a closer look at how all three variables were related. I found a gap in the literature about the link between mental illness and PTSD severity after trauma, and I also found a gap in testing the effects of solely psychological abuse (rather than combined with other types of abuse) on mental health.
What inspired you to pursue this project?
I feel like people who have been through psychological abuse at the hands of a romantic partner deserve to know that their trauma is valid, and what they are feeling is real, regardless of whether their experiences are classified as traumatic by diagnostic standards. I want people who have mental illnesses to be given resources to recognize when they are possibly being manipulated so that they can get out safely and perhaps minimize the trauma and PTSD symptoms they experience.
What are your future plans? How will your project help you to achieve those plans?
After this research project is complete, I plan to build off of it somehow for my senior research project. Thankfully, that's over a year away, but it's never too early to be thinking about it, especially because I'm researching things I'm passionate about. I'd like to continue applying my research to objectives that can potentially help mentally ill communities, through the rest of my Knox experience and into graduate school. I'm hopeful that my research experience will help me get into a great program where I can earn a PsyD and go on to counseling. I had never considered pursuing research before this experience, but now I know I actually enjoy it and want to explore more clinical research in the future.
Meghan Gaynor '19 is studying as a McNair Scholar. She's also involved in the TRIO Achievement Program and the SPARK program. She was inducted into Psi Chi honors society in May. Gaynor is a member of the Pagan Club, and actively participates in the dance department. She works in the Library's Special Collections & Archives.