Caitlin Clark Defends Dissertation

Caitlin Clark successfully defended her dissertation on Monday. She completed a complex and time-consuming instrument development project, starting with running focus groups for item generation, moving through exploratory factor analysis with one sample, and culminating in a confirmatory factor analysis and validation study with another sample.

In spite of the increased interest received by relational aggression among emerging adults, the lack of psychometrically sound measures appropriate for this age range continues to be an important barrier. Caitlin’s dissertation, Validation of the Young Adult Relational Aggression Scale (YARAS), attempted to confirm the hypothesized factor structure of a new measure as well as assess its reliability and validity in a college student sample.

Although she was able to identify a suitable factor structure, doing so required her to correlate several items and meant that the predicted structure could not technically be confirmed (i.e., the confirmatory procedures became exploratory). Nevertheless, we learned a great deal about the construct and the new measure that should inform future work aimed at refining the measure.

Congratulations to Caitlin on completing this important milestone!

Caitlin is currently completing her predoctoral internship at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in Florida and has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship next year at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston.

Caitlin Clark Proposes Dissertation

Caitlin Clark successfully proposed her dissertation today, an ambitious instrument development project aiming to validate a new self-report measure of relational aggression, the Young Adult Relational Aggression Scale (YARAS). Our hope is that the YARAS will ultimately prove to be a psychometrically sound means of assessing proactive and reactive relational aggression among emerging adults.

Many of the existing measures one finds in the adult relational aggression literature were adapted from measures developed with children and early adolescents. Others were developed for use in individual studies and have little evidence of reliability or validity. Still others are difficult to obtain because they were never published, have different versions without clear instructions for use, or do not distinguish between the proactive and reactive functions of relational aggression. Our hope is that the YARAS will be able to improve upon these and other limitations of existing instruments.

Caitlin is an advanced doctoral student working in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab who is in the process of applying for a predoctoral internship this year. With her successful dissertation proposal, she will soon be able to begin data collection.

Congratulations to Caitlin on completing this important milestone!

Developing a Measure of Relational Aggression

The Spring semester is about to begin, and we have several projects approaching the end of the data collection phase. One of the first for which we hope to wrap up data collection and begin data analysis involves the development of a new self-report measure of relational aggression in college students.

Our new measure aims to assess general/peer relational aggression and romantic relation aggression on separate scales and to permit each type of relational aggression to be divided into proactive and reactive functions. For example, a relational aggressive behavior like spreading a malicious rumor about a friend behind his or her back could be proactive (i.e., unprovoked, planned, done for gain) or reactive (i.e., done out of anger or in response to provocation, unplanned, impulsive). We also included items designed to measure electronic forms of relational aggression, a dimension important to college students but not found in existing measures.

Instrument development is usually a length and complex endeavor. We started by conducting a literature review in order to make sure we had a clear definition of relational aggression. We then developed an initial item set on the basis of focus groups with college students and a review of existing measures appropriate to either adolescents or adults. The focus groups were especially useful because they revealed some important limitations of existing measures and provided us with ideas for relevant content that had not occurred to us. After several rounds of revising items, we submitted our item set to several experts on relational aggression. We revised the item set again based on the input of the expert reviewers. Now we are close to completing the step of administering the new items along with a few existing measures of relational aggression and related constructs to a large sample of college students. This will allow us to examine the factor structure of the item set, reduce the number of items while maximizing reliability, and examine the concurrent and discriminant validity of the resulting measure.

While we hope to complete this phase of the project this semester, many additional steps will remain. In fact, we are planning for the next few steps to be carried out as Caitlin Clark's dissertation. We will be at this project for awhile, but we hope to end up with a measure that has some useful advantages over the option currently available.