Topic Trend Analysis of the
Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science (1990-1995)

Jas Basra, Linley Dyer, Danielle Perrault, & Ajay Abraham
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University


The aim of this paper is to analyse the topic trends of psychology as presented in the CANADIAN JOURNAL OF BEHAVIOURAL SCIENCE (for the period of 1990-1995). During this period, we found that most of the articles fell into seven prevalent categories: children/developmental issues, health & medicine, family, sexual issues and gender differences, social psychology issues, and socio-cultural issues. These categories are a reflection of the issues that confronted society during this period. It can be noted that most of the articles during this time frame were submitted by Canadian psychologists (79%), and the remainder by psychologists in the U.S. and outside North America (21%).

1990 - 1991


In 1990 children's issues were not given much attention, but in 1991 there were a great number of articles that dealt with children's issues. Topics published involved such concerns as patterns of child pathology and parenting problems were present in many articles published in 1991. In other words, in 1991 the attention was shifted to other specific issues, such as childhood aggression and withdrawal as predictors of adolescent pregnancy.

The range of discussion extends from predicting mothers' and fathers' perceptions of child behaviour problems to the treatment of childhood disorders. It can further be stated that issues surrounding children (youth) are gaining interest in the field of psychology, a simple glance at the increasing volume of literature supports this claim.


Since health is of great importance to all of us, it is apparent that the Journal of Behaviourial Science acknowledges this area of concern. Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are topics, which were dealt with sufficiently.

The issue of depression was also prominent and was granted an outstanding amount of attention. Depression was also examined through case studies and new directions in theory as well as new directions in research and practice. It can be noted that diseases such as cancer, or heart disease were not written about whereas anxiety disorders, life stress, eating disorders, depression, adult obesity and suicidal issues were emphasized and dealt with to a much greater extent. These issues are probably stressed the most due to their relevance to contemporary society. A point to note is that family violence and child abuse also came under this category and were addressed in a similar fashion.


This category overlaps with the "children" articles. Interestingly this category involves studies addressing parenting issues, marital disturbance and also other interactions among family members. The main concentration of literature revolves around dysfunctional families. For example the article by Wolfe and Peter Jaffe (1991) attempted to explain how child maltreatment (child abuse, family violence) were determinants of child psychopathology. It can be argued that the category of family incorporates various elements of society such as health, culture, education, and crime. Even though the topic of family has been studied with increasing interest in the last decade, there has recently been a shift in focus to the problems that are associated with dysfunctional families.


Family and Interpersonal Relations

Early in 1992 family and interpersonal relations appeared to be central themes of research studies. The main focus of the studies being parental issues, including such topics as the effects of parenting handicapped children or maternal emotional responses premature babies.

Near the middle of the year, a volume of the journal was dedicated to the psychology of control. Control in health and medicine issues was the most popular area of this study. How a patient's feelings of control relate to his or her recovery was the underlying theme. Examining patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, the effects of sexual assault, depression and cancer, the issue of control was thoroughly discussed. In one other study control was examined in the familial relationship of parent to child. Here we see the beginnings of the inter-relatedness of the three major topics found in the journal.

The third theme that was apparent throughout the 1992 journal articles was an interest in social issues, specifically criminal behaviour. Once again, we see overlap as the issue of crime appeared in relation to the other topics already discussed. In one study of crime, assault, was looked at within the context of interpersonal and family relations (husband to wife), with control as one of the variables studied. In another study, crime was once again studied within the realm of family relations, with parents at risk for child neglect, and the effectiveness of child-care training programs in these situations. The topics of crime, criminal behavior, and interpersonal relations melded quite often in the studies done throughout this year. Dating violence and the nature of sexual assault are two further examples of this enmeshing of topics.

In summary, although most of the studies can be regarded as falling under an appropriate heading, a lot of them seem to incorporate in one study at least two of the major trends of research for that time.


In 1993, the journal celebrated its 25th anniversary. There were some special articles published to commemorate the silver anniversary, and the July publication contained a special section with a guest editor. In the October edition, editor Prem S. Fry said his good-byes, after a three-year tenure with the journal. An analysis of the trends for this particular year showed that most of the articles fell into three principal categories: health and medicine, children/developmental issues, and socio-cultural issues.

HEALTH & MEDICINE Health issues seemed to be the paramount concern during this year's volume. Many articles published investigated areas such as the relationship between stress and illness, stress and alcoholism, stress and eating disorders, and the psychosocial impacts of illness. Most of the research focused on discovering new directions for health psychology. With approximately 11 of the 51 articles published in 1993 having been related to health issues, particularly stress related illnesses, it is quite evident that society is very concerned with finding ways of coping effectively with stress. Stress is something that many individuals face daily but, if handled inappropriately, may cause severe physical and psychological problems.

Socio-cultural Issues

As we have see a steady increase in number of immigrants to Canada, we also see the need for research on such topics as inter-racial relations and ethnic differences between the diverse population of the country. Many articles dealt with the development of racial identities in minority and majority children, an issue that is of great concern in the public school system today. The main thrust of the research dealt with French-Canadian and Canadian Issues, such as choice of language, and cultural sensitivity. This needs very little interpretation, as hot topics such as the Meech-Lake Accord and Quebec's independence were beginning to really heat up, not just the political realm, but throughout Canada in its entirety. There was a great need for all Canadians to understand the differences between the two "official" cultures in our country. This is also apparent in the fact that the journal itself is bilingual. As mentioned earlier, there was also an increase in the number of articles which dealt with Asian and other Eastern cultures, apparently due to the dramatic increase in immigration to Canada by these people.

Children / Developmental Issues

The category of children/developmental issues included such topics as family dysfunction and child abuse, intra-familial relationships (as they contribute to childhood disorders), and problems in adolescence. The popularity of this research in 1993 was a continuation of previous years, and has been maintained in the years following. The reasoning behind this popularity is quite logical if we take a look at the increasing rate of divorce and incidence of child abuse over the last 5-15 years.

Articles that were particularly popular during this time were divorce and adjustment for children, social responsibilities of children, and suicide in adolescence. What is encouraging is that the articles had started to focus on the causes of dysfunctional families, such as spousal satisfaction, isolation from social networks, and sibling relationships. This reflects the need for and importance of applied research. There are far too many incidences of child abuse, and childhood disorders such as ADHD and depression, which revealed the desperate need for further research, to provide education to families, and more importantly, coping strategies to children and young adults to be able to grow into healthy adults.

1994 - 1995

During this period, most of the articles published fell into three prevalent categories: sexual issues and gender difference, social/experimental, and development (children). In 1994, the most prevalent category was sexual issues and gender difference (36% of all articles). In contrast, 1995 had an abundance of articles on social/ experimental which was the most prevalent (29% of all articles) category. A total of 72 articles were published during this period of which 75% were in English and 25% were in French. The majority of the articles during this period were submitted by Canadian psychologists (84%), and the remainder by American and other psychologists outside North America.

Sexual Issues and Gender Difference

This category deals primarily with issues related to abuse/ maltreatment, violence (rape), aggression etc. mainly against women and children, sexual orientation, coping and effect of abuse on adolescence. It also included studying and understanding patterns and profiles of child molesters, predicting and preventing future offences in high risk individuals, relationship and interaction in couples, sexual dysfunction and various treatment programmes for victims and high risk individuals.

Gender differences were related to differences and similarities in cognitive, personality, response latencies (on motor tasks), and moral attributes, beliefs, perception on various issues, such as sexual orientation (homophobia), discrimination, and substance abuse.

In 1995, there was a drastic increase in the number of articles presented on this category (compared to 1994). This trend may have been due to increased public awareness of issues pertaining to child abuse and violence against women, as well as the race to develop programs and treatment services to help predict, control, and eliminate these behaviours or practices.

Social Issues

This category deals with concerns of a society toward an individual's action or behaviour and his/her reaction towards the norm and values laid down by the society to promote growth and development. Various issues such as ethnic difference, equal treatment/opportunity of all individuals, protections and safety of all members of the society were examined. As additionally were: increased social support for victims of abuse, increase standards of education, job creation/placement, care for the mentally challenged, and various other social programs that help victims and the mentally challenged to merge back into society.

There was a greater increase in social awareness in 1994 through various channels such as the media, education, etc. This trend was probably due to a greater increase in immigration and growth rate during this year (as compared to the previous year).


This category deals primarily with the development process of adults and children and the various problems faced during this process. However, in 1994 and 1995, the majority of articles in this category dealt with childhood development problems. Some of the concerns were on helping children who were victims of abuse and violence, and also on helping the mentally challenged. A few of the articles focussed on developmental disorders such as ADHD and autism. Several programs were also designed to train caregivers and parents in dealing with children with these developmental disorders.

Conclusion / Other

It is important to point out that in doing any topic trend analysis, it is impossible to nicely package every article under any one specific category. Many issues that were discussed during this period did not fit into any one of the principal categories that were presented. However, it is not to say that these articles are not equally as important as those mentioned specifically in our analysis, they just did not appear to be present in any particular trend. Some of these articles include research on criminal behaviour, politics, and pure experimental research involving construct validity, intelligence testing, etc. It is important to be aware that these topic trend analyses only gives an abstraction of the entire contents of the journal. Additionally, although it is interesting to look at these trends in psychology, it should not be mistaken for an index of the articles in the journal.