Date of Award

3-10-2021

Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Carlin J. Miller

Keywords

attention, inattention, protective factors, self efficacy, self esteem

Rights

info:eu-repo/semantics/openAccess

Abstract

Attention is a multifaceted concept, broadly defined as prioritizing and selective focusing on specific facets of incoming information. Research on abilities across the attentional spectrum has been limited from a clinical perspective, with the largest body of research on attention and the functional consequences of attentional problems focused on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Using ADHD as a framework for understanding attentional abilities across a wide spectrum, the current set of three studies aimed to explore the functional consequences associated with lower levels of attention ability, as well as factors that could protect against poorer outcomes. These variables were examined within the context of emerging adulthood (ages 18-29) in higher education settings, and University of Windsor and Ryerson University undergraduate students were recruited to serve as participants for all three studies. Data was collected via surveys and analyzed using multiple regression. Study 1 examined the relation between attentional abilities and academic performance in emerging adults. Hypotheses included: (1) there would be a negative relation between level of inattention and academic performance, and (2) the use of academic supports, social supports, and wellness practices would moderate that relation. The results showed that higher levels of inattention predicted lower grade point averages (GPA). Goal efficacy emerged as a protective factor and mediated the relation between level of inattention and GPA across all levels of attentional ability. Study 2 examined the relation between attentional abilities and social functioning. Hypotheses included: (1) there would be a negative relation between level of inattention and social functioning, and (2) higher levels of self-esteem, structured style, and emotional stability would moderate the relation between level of inattention and social functioning. The results showed that higher levels of inattention predicted lower levels of social functioning. Goal efficacy again emerged as a protective factor, as did prioritizing and planning behaviour. Both factors buffered against the effects of inattention on social functioning across all levels of attentional ability. Study 3 examined the relation between attentional abilities and legal outcomes. Hypotheses included: (1) there would be a positive relation between level of inattention and level of engagement in unlawful activity; (2) increased levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness would moderate the relation between level of inattention and level of engagement in unlawful activity; and, (3) use of wellness practices would moderate the relation between level of inattention and level of engagement in unlawful activity. The results showed that higher levels of inattention were related to greater involvement in criminal activity. Agreeableness emerged as a protective factor, with higher levels buffering against criminal involvement for individuals with higher levels of inattention. Finally, an overall score relating to engagement in wellness practices protected against criminal involvement for individuals with higher levels of inattention. Overall, modifiable protective factors, namely self-efficacy, aspects of executive functioning, agreeableness, and wellness practices, emerged across all three studies. The results suggest that emerging adults across the spectrum of attentional abilities could benefit from the development and fostering of factors such as self-efficacy, which may buffer against the poor outcomes related to higher levels of inattention.

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