Research Interests

I intentionally adopt a collaborative approach to research. Whether this collaboration occurs with fellow faculty members, students, or members of the community I believe that collaboration strengthens my program of research versus hampering it. Since joining Trent University in 2006, I have been involved in several streams of research Some of these emerged as part of the collaborative process, others, I initiated and brought in colleagues to work with me.

Areas of Interest:

Inuit Health
Community Aboriginal Recreation Activator (CARA) Project
Family Relations
Psychology of Religion
Dreams and Dreaming

Bariatric Studies:

For the past several years I have been researching the ways in which patients undergoing bariatric surgery navigate through the process while living in a rural location (i.e., Peterborough) rather than in a more densely populated urban area (i.e. the Greater Toronto Area). This project is locally based, involving community members and local health care providers. To date, several focus groups and individual qualitative interviews have been conducted. From the patient perspective, I am interested in the biopsychosocial impact that the surgery has, not only on the individual patients, but also on the interpersonal relationships and family dynamics of those involved. Both the focus group interviews and the individual interviews with local health care providers (e.g., medical doctors, social workers, dieticians) highlight the challenges and opportunities that these personnel experience in serving this growing segment of clientele. I have invited a colleague, Dr. Fergal O’Hagen from the Department of Psychology, to participate in this research endeavor. As well, one of my past undergraduate students wrote her Honours Thesis on the research and returned as a graduate student to continue researching the issue.

Inuit Health/Land-Based Practices:

In 2011 I was asked to collaborate with a visiting scholars’ doctoral work on Inuit health and land-based practices. This is a collaborative effort between Ursula King (Australian National University), Chris Furgal (Indigenous Studies), Brenda Smith-Chant (Psychology) and myself. We are examining the connections between health indicators, wellness (including such things as community connectedness) and land-based practices (such as hunting, fishing, etc.). This series of studies are primarily quantitative in approach, using a large data-base of information collected from 13 Inuit communities.


Community Aboriginal Recreation Activator (CARA) Project:

A small group of researchers, Brenda Smith-Chant (Psychology), Stuart Shanker (York University) and myself were awarded a research grant from Ontario’s Healthy Communities Fund ($357,000). The research project centered around a program evaluation of an Ontario Government and community collaboration that was designed to encourage engagement in recreational activities in First Nation communities. The program evaluation was designed to assess community participation (especially the youth) in recreational activities. Secondary goals of the evaluation were to assess the subsequent health and wellness outcomes of engagement in the program at individual and community levels. The research design was primarily qualitative in nature, using a Participatory Action Research approach. This method of data collection was appropriate given the population we were working with (13 First Nations communities scattered throughout Ontario). This project was truly community-based research – with the communities being actively involved in all aspects of the process. Approximately 300 individuals, ranging from community members to Government personnel, were interviewed over a six-month period, generating hundreds of pages of transcript for analysis.


Family Relations:

Another of my ongoing research programs involves the study of family dynamics, specifically the parent-child relationship and the transmission of cultural values and beliefs. My target populations over the years have been largely focused on immigrant groups living in Canada (e.g., Portuguese and Jamaican – Canadian families). Much of this work is qualitative in nature. For example, I have interviewed adolescent children regarding their acculturative and enculturative experiences as they relate to their parents transmission of cultural values and beliefs. I have also interviewed Jamaican-Canadian parents of children to understand their perspective of the transmission process. Contained within this research stream is an exploration of the processes by which parents socialize their children for experiences of prejudice in the Canadian context.

Psychology of Religion:

This is a continuing area of interest and several honours and practicum students have worked with me on projects in this domain. I am interested in the ways that religious orientations are not merely motivational in nature, but can also influence attitudes and behaviours. For example, I have examined the ways that the various religious orientations predict: ethnocentrism, prejudice, and responses to the desecration of sacred/cultural symbols.

Dreams and Dreaming:

Since joining Trent University, I have become very interested in the ways people navigate and make meaning of their dream life, especially as it relates to interpersonal relationships. I have developed close ties with an international community that scientifically studies dreams and dreaming. This collaboration has been very rich to me personally and professionally. The specific issues that I have examined relate to: dream imagery and interpersonal relationships, dreams and liminal times in one’s life, embodiment of dreams and therapeutic processes.