Child and Youth Studies Current Graduate Student Profiles

MA in Child and Youth Studies




Child and Youth Studies Current Graduate Student Profiles

Corrie Aldhelm-White
Corrie’s research is focused on studying the child-companion animal bond in an attempt to answer the question as to whether or not empathy towards peers can be stimulated in children who have been identified as bullies in a school setting. With the help of her Masters thesis advisor, Dr. Christine Tardif-Williams, Therapy Tails Ontario, and the Niagara District School Board, she hopes to utilize an intervention program called Paws for Respect to showcase the similarities between bullying towards other humans and animals. The intervention program tells the story of Farley, a dog who suffered abuse at the hands of his previous owner. It is her hypothesis that this intervention will help convey to children the negatives of bullying and will show an increase in empathy towards peers from children identified as bullies in the school setting.

Lydia Arhinful
Lydia comes from a political science and information studies background from the University of Ghana. The research topic undertaken in her undergraduate centered on the ways government sustain its intervention schemes in the health sector (Ghana) especially in the deprived areas (Northern region-Ghana) where women, children and the aged are vulnerable. She will be doing her Masters thesis under the supervision of Dr. Dawn Zinga. For her research, she intends on analyzing the different parenting styles adopted by parents in the upbringing of their children in the developing country (Ghana) and the developed country (Canada). Lydia hopes that her research will provide further insight into how the different parenting styles adopted by parents in these two countries affect the children and their relationship with the world and with others.

Katie Atkins
Katie’s research focuses on coping with learning disabilities. When children struggle with learning, it not only affects their academic experiences, but it is also a risk factor for social and emotional difficulties. This can translate to negative outcomes in life if they cannot cope with it adaptively. Thus is it important to understand how a child lives with and manages this challenge as it can provide a gateway to intervention that helps clinicians, educational professionals and parents support children’s cognitive and social/emotional development. In order to do this, Katie will be conducting a qualitative case study that examines how the transaction between a child’s internal resources and the multiple contexts in their environment (home, school, community) contributes to how they cope with a learning disability.

Melanie Bastien
Melanie received her BA in psychology. Her honors thesis investigated the relationship between personality and social development. Specifically, how the Big Five dimension of introversion/extraversion interplayed with shyness and other measures such as negative emotionality, sociability, and loneliness. She is currently working with Dr. Marini to explore relational aggression and the functions of gossip and how it relates to perceived popularity. As well, she will be investigating the adaptive function of relational aggression in female ethnic minorities from low income backgrounds and how it escalates to physical violence. She hopes to also incorporate some aspect of resilience into her future studies.

Daniella Bendo
Daniella is a Brock University graduate of Child and Youth Studies. During her undergraduate degree she conducted an honours thesis that analyzed the position and construction of child and youth advocacy within Canadian law, policy and media documents. Continuing under the supervision of Dr. Richard Mitchell her masters research will build upon this pilot study to highlight that although research exists on rights and marginalized youth, relatively little attention has been paid to the growing role of Canadian child and youth advocates in promoting rights awareness. Daniella’s research aims to address this gap in the literature by exploring how advocates understand, articulate, and participate in the legal and social construction of child advocacy in Canada. Her research will address this issue by focusing on how Canadian child advocates understand and carry out their roles, and consider the opportunities and barriers associated with child advocacy. Daniella’s practical work with children and young people as a Youth Employment Counselor, Camp Director, After School Program Teacher and Supervised Access Centre Staff has shed light on the importance of advocating for children. Consequently, Daniella hopes to analyze the day-to-day work of child and youth advocates in Canada as they have been under-researched by university-based academics and civil society stakeholders. Accordingly, Daniella plans on applying her research findings to both policy and practice in the Canadian context to illuminate the voices of children who seemingly remain silent citizens.

Amanda DiFonzo
Amanda is a Brock University graduate of Child and Youth Studies and her research surrounds social media, specifically photo sharing online, and what effects it can have on children and youth social development. Her undergraduate research with Dr. Zopito Marini involved examining the phenomenon of the ‘selfie’ and how young adults viewed the meaning of posting and sharing photos of one’s self online. Amanda will be continuing this research with Dr. Marini in her Masters research by focusing on the younger generation of children and what it means to communicate online through photos instead of text. She recognizes that the many children are developing a sense of identity through online outlets, and that this will continue into the future, which is why it is important to look more deeply into living online. Cyberbullying, sexting, and harassment online is also of high interest for Amanda as possible negative effects when being public on the Internet and being active on various social media sites.

Ashley Dunseith
It was through Dr. Lauren McNamara's research background and guidance that I too began reflecting on my many years of schooling and considering various areas that are seemingly undervalued in the school system, such as recess. Through conducting research, and facilitating a section of the Recess Project under the supervision of Dr. McNamara, my research aims to further identify not only the benefits of recess, but to also acknowledge recess as a valuable tool for promoting positive development in our children and youth. Essentially, I will be looking at the link between recess components and mental health and how recess can be structured [through the Recess Project] to encourage positive mental health among students.
 
Nicole Franklin
Nicole's research interests center on recess with an emphasis on social context. Research indicates that recess has the potential to positively impact children's social, physical, academic, and psychological development, yet there are many children who face challenges during recess such as bullying and exclusion. Consequently, Nicole works as a Recess Coordinator with the Niagara Recess Project, a program developed by her supervisor, Dr. Lauren McNamara, which aims to promote a recess environment that is positive, inclusive, and engaging by utilizing Participatory Action Research. Due to the fact that research on recess in Canada is largely absent, Nicole's research will qualitatively document the social landscape of recess through the voices of students, teachers, and administrators. She is hopeful this research will one day influence policy and practice within the education system as well as illuminate the need for further research in this area of study.

Prarthana Franklin
Prarthana received her Honors Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology at York University. Her work experiences as a Psychometrist conducting psycho- vocational and psycho- educational assessments, Research Assistant analyzing infant and child mental health and studying violence and conflict resolution, and Student Mentor working with children with developmental delays influenced her to study the effects of single parent and dual parent families in children’s socio- emotional development for her undergraduate thesis. Prarthana is currently extending her research on parenting by analyzing parents abilities to decode their children’s facial cues from an evolutionary perspective under the supervision of Dr. Anthony Volk for her Master’s thesis.

Michelle Janzen
Michelle is a graduate of Brock University with two undergrad degrees. Her first is in Sociology and her second is in Child and Youth Studies. Therefore she tends to bring a multi-disciplinary lens to her research. During her grad studies, her research will be focusing on the experience of parents advocating for "the complicated child". As a parent of a child with autism and as someone heavily involved in the autism community she has experienced and heard the frustrations of parents and in particular mothers discuss their triumphs and hardships advocating for their child's needs. In particular it has become apparent that those children with dual diagnosis and multiple medical issues tend to have more difficulties in advocating and can have various experiences in a variety of community and service areas. Through her research of case studies she hope to bring to light these very important experiences of advocation so that others may understand the issues from a parental view.

Chilise Jones-Cowser
Chilise is interested in the child-companion animal bond particularly the interactions between children and their companion animals. Chilise is currently working alongside her advisor Dr. Christine Tardif-Williams for her Masters thesis. Chilise's research is part of a larger study being conducted by Dr. Christine Tardif-Williams, which is being conducted at the St. David’s Public School in collaboration with the District School Board of Niagara and Therapy Tails Ontario. The larger study involves examining children's interactions with dogs, who are being engaged as reading buddies in an educational setting. Specifically, Chilise's research is investigating if the interactions between children and companion animals, in this case dogs as reading buddies, is associated with the promotion of empathy and prosocial behaviour among children. Chilise hopes that her research will provide further insight into the child-companion animal bond in an educational context with the goal of increasing children’s social-emotional competence.
 
Yana Lakman
Yana is originally from Ottawa and has a BA with specialization in Psychology from the University of Ottawa. She has a great deal of experience working with children and youth. She is currently working with Heather Chalmers, exploring the topic of young carers in Canada. There is a significant lack of awareness and research regarding this population, thus there are limitless opportunities for investigation. One of her interests is in understanding more about who in a family takes on a caregiving role, as not all children become young carers. In collaboration with the Powerhouse Project in St Catharines, she will begin to research young carers’ profile, emphasizing the role of temperament, gender, and birth order and contribute to the understanding of this hidden population in the Niagara region.

Claudia Nijsten
Living in Canada for the first time in my life as a Canadian, Claudia is very interested in children, youth and culture. She graduated with a BA in Psychology and French from Chapman University in Orange, California. Her undergraduate thesis focused on international adoption versus domestically adopted children and their levels of mental health and self-esteem. Her French thesis focused on the lack of support in France for children who have learning disabilities. She has experience working with children aged 8-17 at summer camps around the world (Singapore and Switzerland). She is currently working on with Dr. Dawn Zinga, exploring the topic of third culture kids and their sense of identity and adaption to coming back home. She would like to investigate different variables in the research such as the identity of a third culture kid, self-esteem, depression, and culture shock.

Daniel Provenzano
With a background in Psychology, Daniel believes he can bring a unique perspective to the Child and Youth Studies program. He has previously delved into bullying research by examining the physical and emotional effects of cyberbullying and cybervictimization in children. Now at Brock University, under the supervision of Dr. Tony Volk, he wants to switch gears and focus his research interests on examining the link between personality and bullying. More specifically, he wants to utilize the HEXACO model of personality structure to gain a better understanding of why bullies behave the way they do from a personality perspective. In doing so, he hopes his research findings will help to improve anti-bullying programs by targeting specific personality traits of bullies in order determine the most effective way to combat bully behavior.

Hilary Scruton
Approximately 20% of children enter the education system lagging behind their typically-achieving peers in reading. Recognizing the importance of reading in today’s society and the prevalence of reading difficulties, Hilary’s research interests are centered on providing effective literacy interventions to support vulnerable readers in their youth. Under the supervision of Dr. John McNamara, her thesis will explore the efficacy of, “Reading Rocks”, a literacy intervention approach designed to support and motivate young children with reading difficulties. Specifically, Hilary’s research will build on her undergraduate degree in Child and Youth studies and her previous work experience with vulnerable readers. Her proposed MA research will focus studying the impact of motivational tactics, such as graphing, goal-setting, and monitoring, on achievement gains for youth in the Reading Rocks program. Hilary is hopeful that her research will make a contribution to policy, practice, and research for individuals and groups that work with populations at-risk for reading difficulties. In conducting her research, Hilary will also further develop her own research skills and knowledge in the field of literacy and supporting children at-risk for reading difficulties.

Natalie Spadafora
Natalie is a Brock University graduate of concurrent education. As part of her undergraduate research in the Child and Youth Department, Natalie examined bullying within the context of sports, that is, seeing how bullying dynamics occurred between adolescent athletes, correlated with variables such as antisociality, the number of years of sports participation, and the coach's skill ranking. Continuing under the supervision of Dr. Zopito Marini for her Masters research, Natalie will continue to study bullying, through an examination of the role of the bystander in bullying situations. Through her experience with children and youth, Natalie understands the prevalence of this social dynamic, therefore motivating her interest to focus on predictors and motivations within bullying situations. Since bullying is a group process, Natalie is interested in further investigating the unique role of the bystander, specifically taking a cost/benefit perspective in order to see what motivates students to choose to intervene or not when witnessing a bullying situation.

Samantha Stromski
Samantha’s research interests focus on issues facing individuals with intellectual disabilities within the Criminal Justice System. Under the supervision of Dr. Griffiths and Dr. Marinos Samantha’s Masters thesis will examine the ways accommodations and supports are being used to assist individuals with the specific diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) throughout the various stages of the justice system. Samantha hopes that this research will contribute to theory, policy and practice that can provide new directions for the development of specialized support programs that will assist individuals with FASD in navigating their way through the justice system with more ease, resulting in more equitable experiences.
 
Kimberley Tsujimoto
Kimberley Tsujimoto's overall research interests focus on interventions which aim to support the learning needs of individuals with disabilities; as well as the role of motivational constructs and attributions in reading achievement. Her passion for seeking to provide educational supports for children with disabilities stemmed from working in classrooms and her extracurricular work at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Under the supervision of Dr. Jan Frijters, Kimberley's graduate work will collaborate with the initiatives of the Learning Disabilities Research Program at the Hospital for Sick Children and the Center for the Study of Adult Literacy. To support the creation of developmentally appropriate literacy interventions for individuals who struggle with reading, her proposed MA research will focus on the motivational processes of adult learners in relation to reading component skills. The unique needs of adult literacy learners are understudied as most current evidence-based remedial approaches are based on a younger learner population. This work builds off of her undergraduate thesis; which examined the interchangeable relationship between attributions for success and failure and reading achievement among adolescents with reading difficulties. Her MA thesis hopes to further explore the role of motivation in academic achievement across learner populations to better understand how to support a range of learning needs and goals.

Cecilia Ann Turnbull
After four extraordinary years in the Child and Youth Studies program at Brock University, Cecilia decided to extend her education delving into the MA program. Knowing Brock and the community has helped facilitate much of the ideas for my thesis, and working alongside Dr. Shauna Pomerantz, she hopes to expand on her previous knowledge dealing with child and youth sexuality. Her research interests encompass a variety of topics surrounding the sexuality of children and youth. Some of these topics are: sex education, media, looking at child versus teen discourses on sexuality, and child abuse, whether it is sexual or otherwise, which is a topic that is not discussed in terms of sexual education, but a reason to fear sex. She will be conducting a qualitative study, most likely based on in-depth interviews with teenagers. The interviews will look at their views on sexuality, where their views come from, and how those views make them feel about sexuality. Overall, she wants to encourage positive sexuality discussions for young people that not only examine the physical, but also the psychological aspects of sexuality.

Erin Vaantaja
Erin completed her BA and BEd at Brock University in the Concurrent Education Program with a Primary/Junior focus. Throughout her undergrad she volunteered for the Recess Project Canada under the advisory of Dr. Lauren McNamara in the Child and Youth department. Having an interest in the school experiences of children and youth, she decided she wanted to become more involved in the program. This led to her decision to complete her 4th year undergraduate thesis on “The Experiences of Junior Recess Leaders in the Recess Project Canada.” Working alongside Dr. Lauren McNamara she became fascinated by student experiences during recess and the effectiveness of the program at the schools it was implemented in. The majority of her thesis focused on the project’s ability to create student leadership opportunities, reduce occasions of student exclusion, and assist students in becoming more physically active. After attending teachers college, she was able to gain additional experience working with children and youth and felt that she was able to better understand a student’s average school day. She is now currently completing her MA with Dr. Lauren McNamara and hopes to further explore the culture of recess and challenge its current structure in North America.