Dissertation Defenses

Doctoral students who have an upcoming dissertation oral defense are posted here. So why not take this opportunity to learn about the research that our graduate students are doing!

Dissertation Defense for Matthew Cutler

Program: Sociology: PHD

Department Contact Email: deena.peschke@unh.edu

Defense Title: Seeing and Believing: The Emergent Nature of Extreme Weather Perceptions

Defense Date and Time: 03/05/15 2:30 pm

Defense Location: McConnell 103

Defense Advisor: Dr. Lawrence Hamilton

Defense Abstract: Perceptions of environmental issues are influenced by a variety of factors. Sociological research on this topic has largely taken a social-psychological approach and as a reuslt the effects of geographically-based circumstances and objective material conditions on individual perceptions are given less attention than individual-level predictors, such as political party affiliation or measures of educational attainment. Using data from the Communities and Environment in Rural America (CERA) surveys, I employ a mixed-effects modeling technique to investigate the influence of individual- and county-level characteristics on public perceptions of unusual or extreme weather. In addition to the survey data, I also utilize county-level weather events data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Storm Events Database (SED) and the Storm Prediction Center's (SPC) Severe Thunderstorm Events Archive (STSEA) in order to test whether the incidence of severe weather influences public perceptions of unusual or extreme wather. My research adds to a growing body of literature on public perceptions of environmental issues by illuminating the socio-demographic and contextual nature of individual-level perception formation through the use of integrated social and biophpysical data.


Dissertation Defense for Meghan Mills

Program: Sociology: PHD

Department Contact Email: deena.peschke@unh.edu

Defense Title: The Impact of Socioeconomic Status and Goal-Striving Stress on Depression and Delinquency among Rural Youth

Defense Date and Time: 03/18/15 10:00 am

Defense Location: Carsey Institute, Huddleston Hall

Defense Advisor: Dr. Karen Van Gundy

Defense Abstract: According to the stress process framework,both socioeconomic status and goal-striving stress serve as critical chronic stressors; however, little to no research has examined the relationship between socioeconomic status, goal-striving stres, and well-being using this theoretical framework. Using longitudinal data from Waves I (2009) & II (2011) of the Rural Youth Study (RYS), my dissertation examines how goal-striving stress varies by socioeconomic status, and it investigates the impact of goal-striving stress on delinquent behaviors and depressive symptoms among rural youth over time, and net of crucial components of the stress process framework (i.e., stressful life events, family attachment, and personal resources). More specifically, my research examines the unique effects of educational, occupational, and community goal-striving stress as well as the effects of a combined measure of overall goal-striving stress.
Analyses reveal a significant negative relationship between socioeconomic status and depressive symptoms, but this relationship is mediated by family attachment. Controlling for prior depressive symptoms, only a significant positive relationship between community goal-striving stress and depressive symptoms remains. However, with regard to delinquent behaviors, educational, community, and overall goal-striving stress are significantly positively related to delinquent behaviors net of prior delinquency. Such findings remain even with statistical adjustments for socioeconomic status, stressful life events, family attachment, and personal resources.
The findings of my dissertation illustrate the importance of considering various types of goal-striving stress and considering their unique effects on different outcomes. My findings highlight the importance of a "new" type of goal-striving stress among rural youth, community goal-striving stress. Additionally, my findings indicate that goal-striving stress may be especially important for understanding the unequal social distribution of outcomes such as delinquency that are not as clearly or directly associated with socioeconomic status. Such findings highlight the important role of the stress process framework for understanding socioeconomic disparities in outcomes. In sum, goal-striving stress is a critical topic for future research using the stress process framework with important policy implications for improving the well-being of rural youth.


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