Using Single-Subject Designs to Probe Dynamics Associated With Stress and Transitions to College Life
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CitationCoombs, Garth. 2020. Using Single-Subject Designs to Probe Dynamics Associated With Stress and Transitions to College Life. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe transition to young adulthood is often initiated by leaving home for college, where one must face increased academic pressures, form a new social support system, and develop adult-like independence over one’s daily life. Life transitions are often experienced as stressful and can negatively affect behaviors such as sleep and academic performance. Furthermore, experiences of stress and disordered sleep are both cause and consequence of many mental disorders, notably anxiety and depression. Thus, it is important to understand how young adults adapt to college, establish new sleep patterns, and respond to novel academic and social stressors that accompany a time of life transition. This dissertation takes a novel approach to understanding the dynamics of these transitions, aiming to inform theories of how dynamics of human behavior vary in healthy and unhealthy ways. In particular, this dissertation focuses on an individualized approach to better understanding the interrelationships of stress, sleep, and mental health during the course of freshmen year of college.
This dissertation first reviews the background literature of stress, sleep, and daily affect and motivating the need for individualized approaches to further understand their complex interrelationships (Chapter 1). I then present two pilot studies used to develop and refine a methodology for collecting high-quality, intensive longitudinal data over extended durations and at relatively large scales (Chapter 2), and the specification and validation of a novel individual-level linear model framework that can be used to understand the associations and lead/lag directional relationships of daily measures of objective and subjective sleep quality and the subjective experiences of stress (Chapter 3). I then tested the a priori hypotheses developed from these pilot studies in an independent cohort of 49 freshmen who were tracked continuously for a full academic year as they initially arrived on campus (Chapter 4), and discuss the initial inferences and implications an individualized approach provides to our understanding of stress, sleep, and affect during college life (Chapter 5).
Evidence from this dissertation indicates an individualized approach reveals idiosyncratic but consistent directional relationships between experienced stress and sleep behaviors, which in turn have clinical implications for student’s mental health outcomes during their freshmen year. Together, this dissertation presents some initial steps towards better understanding an individual’s complex interrelationships between stress, sleep quality, and daily affect, as well as their clinical implications.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365873
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