Psychology is a discipline that examines the personal processes of one's mind and how the external world affects each individual. What psychologists study are a large part of what is happening all around the individual, in other words, the social context in which one lives. Therefore, the social, political, and economic, influences in any given time period can be understood to greatly affect the individual and thereby affect psychology as well. These historical processes are clearly evident in the various psychological journals, which publish research papers over a generally large period of time. By examining these studies, students of psychology are able to trace the roots of psychology, how it has developed and what role current issues had in the evolution of psychology. The task of this paper was to relate the research studies in The Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science with the historical issues and the development of psychology from 1986 to 1990.
In 1986, there were studies covering the whole range of family violence. Family violence has come about as being one of the major social problems in the 1980s. The problem of child sexual abuse has captured the attention of both the public and professionals in the past few years. There has been a great deal of coverage on this issue on television and in newspapers and magazines. Child maltreatment, whether it is sexual abuse or neglect, is considered a serious problem in today's society. In 1986, there was a debate over making amendments to the Federal Criminal Code, tightening restrictions on pornography and child sexual abuse. There were six studies done on child abuse and neglect. Of these six studies, one talked of the prevalence of child sexual abuse, two looked at the effects of abuse, and one compared child abuse and child neglect. Other studies concentrated on successful interventions of child maltreating families and relations between sexual offenders and certain types of behavior.
Another topic of concern was the prevalence of wife battering. Wife battering is a serious social an criminal problem in North American society. There are increasingly more resources for battered women, including: shelters, specialized support services and group counselling programs. It appears as though there is more awareness, openness and resources to deal with these issues of family violence.
Stress is something that everyone experiences in her of his life. Nevertheless, stress levels in people are increasing, due to population increases, job competitiveness, and the fact that now many families need two incomes to survive. Because of the added pressures on time and money, stress and frustration seem to be the result. There are escalating numbers of stress management programs and self-help groups out there and these two studies on stress reflect that. One study looked at thought processing during stressful events and the other looked at recovery from stress.
Children's views of their self-concept and their peer relations and friendships are look at in a couple of studies. The belief over the past few years has been that the enhancement of student's self-concepts will help them function better socially and academically.
Overall the majority of studies looked at areas relating to children. The indirect importance of children's rights appears to be at the forefront of many of the studies.
In 1987 there was a problem of illegal immigration into Canada. Emergency legislation was enacted to crack down on the illegal entries. A study looked at attitudes towards multiculturalism; it appears that multiculturalism is not as accepted as it could be.
Of the studies in 1986, only 14% where in French, whereas in 1987, 21% where in French. It is possible that the Meach Lake accord, of 1987, brought the issues of the French language rights to bear on these figures.
The Supreme Court of Canada, in 1987, ruled that polygraph evidence was inadmissible in judicial proceedings. There was a study done on estimating polygraph accuracy in field applications. This shows the concern for accurate measures when dealing with criminal justice issues.
There are a variety of studies incorporating the wide arena of forensic psychology. Some examples are in the application of psychology to areas related to the law, courts, policy, and prisons. Forensic psychology has been used only relatively recently in Canada, but it is now expanding into various areas. Two studies look at the idea of eyewitness testimony as well as the some-what controversial idea of expert testimony. Another important issue that was looked at was conflict resolution of divorced parents. It is very important that a child does not suffer during periods such as divorce. This is an emerging field and it looks as though soon every other child will be affected by their parents' separation.
With all the stress "out there" in the fast evolving, competitive world, it is not surprising that there is a study on anxiety reduction techniques. There is increasingly more information for the public on how to manage stress. This type of information seems to be evolving with the times and is absolutely necessary.
Depression and loneliness were also examined. Loneliness was seen as leading to depression which, in turn, may lead the person to things such as alcohol. Alcoholism is a big problem in North American society, never the less, there are increasing numbers of self help groups, various forms of counseling and other resources for those who need to deal with their problems.
In 1988, the Canadian journal of behavioral science issued a special edition focusing on children and adolescence. All ten articles were devoted to examining the various experiences of young people. A possible explanation for this special edition could be the adverse consequences experienced by children of separated and/or divorced parents. This hypothesis is evident in the five articles (out of ten for this edition) that dealt with the mental health issues for children. These articles examined childhood mental disorders, cognitive and behavioral health, mental health promotion in children and adolescence, children's ability to cope with pain, and psychosocial factors related with cystic fibrosis. Such an emphasis on mental health issues points to the increase in awareness in the late 1980s of the term "family dysfunction" and the awareness of the effects divorce has on family members, especially the children. Incidentally, there was a study that examines adolescents' concern over the threat of nuclear war. This concern is related to the political era of the 1980s that has come to be known as the nuclear age. A concrete historical event that could have directly led to this research is the Chernobyl melt down.
One article examined the impact of the Young Offenders Act (YOA) which was implemented in 1984. Reporting that by the time this act was enforced, applied, and reacted to, four years had passed for this 1988 study to be published.
This research reflects another happening during this particular time period due to the increasing emphasis on crimes committed by youth--either through an actual increase in youth crime or an increase in our awareness of it-as reported through the medium of TV and newspapers.
Three articles, out of 35 for 1988 year, studied stress. Of course, the fact that stress is present in research at this time is due to the era of the 1980s that made stress not only a house hold word but also a seemingly necessary factor in Canadian lives. One article looks at women's' responses at affirmative action programs and represents the pressure on both government and business at that time for pay and employment equity. This pressure may largely be due to the 1986 implementation of the employment equity act.
Finally, one interesting study attempted to link a male's birth date with his subsequent successes in minor and profession hockey. This focus may be due to greater interest in sports overall and is particularly related to the Canadian context, since hockey is Canada's cultural mainstay.
The focus of the studies in 1989 and 1990 where mostly on women's issues such as: immigration, violence against women, eating disorders and depression.
One of the major social issues in 1989 was the Mark Lepine tragedy. Mark Lepine shot women from the engineering department in Montreal, because he hated educated women. As it can be related to this social issue, there was a study done, in 1990, about the responses of men to affirmative action strategies for women
In 1989, there where two studies on violence against women and domestic assault, eight articles on social issues and nine studies on depression and mood disorders, one article on diet and seven other studies in French.
There was also a study on eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. This kind of study might also contribute to other areas of psychology such as depression and mood disorders and personality disorders, since these are some of the associated issues with eating disorders. Development of technology, the increasing number of women in the work force and the change of the ideal woman's figure in the contemporary world made it necessary for women to be thin and tall. This is one of the theories of eating disorders, believed to be more prominent in industrial societies. Perhaps a single study, in 1990, on self management (self help) and another study on diet in 1989, as well as the nine studies on depression and mood disorders in 1989, can also be associated with this type of global social and economic change. Increasing levels of competition and stress in the modern world appears to have induced the likely hood of depression.
Immigration to Canada from all over the world, may have related to some of the research in 1989 and 1990. Research on Haitian and Indian immigrant women in Montreal, and on acculturation experiences, appraisal, coping with adaptation (by comparison to Hong Kong, Chinese, French and English students in Canada) was made in 1989. There were also three studies on acculturation and second language proficiency in 1990. These studies on immigrants, might bring a new and supplementary approach to understanding the interaction between the individual socio cultural changes and to the individual, as well as, the studies on people with continuous life cycle experiences. Thus it may provide different perspectives to the future of psychology in many fields, such as social psychology and cognitive psychology. Not surprisingly, Lloyd H. Rogler, in his essay on "international migrations", points out the result of his studies on immigrants. He explored how the migration experiences of people affected the intergenerational continuity in ethnic identity, spouse relationships, socio economic ability and in patterns of homogenous assertive mating "American Psychologist 1984".
In 1990, other than the studies completed on immigrants, one article studied the way questionnaires where prepared for the federal elections. There was also a study on the general and specific measures of public attitudes towards sentencing.
Studies in The Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science reflect what is current in society. The years from 1986-1990 have a few definite themes: family, feminism, violence and the mental repercussions of these areas. The family theme included such topics as family, violence, alcoholism, divorce, dysfunctionalism, child sexual abuse and neglect. The female issues include affirmative action, violence, and eating disorders. The next prevalent theme in Canada during that five-year period was violence. The violence was, as mentioned already, against women and children, but also violence issues in the criminal justice system were explored. The polygraph, law, courts, policy, expert testimony, young offenders and prisons were some of the areas researched. Another theme, that is unique to Canada, was immigration and Quebec issues. The effects of the themes are identified through studies done on stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness.
The over-all picture of the studies carried out in 1986-1990 is not optimistic. Of course Canada is influenced by events out of its control. Many world events affected Canadians during that five year period: Chernobyl, Reagonomics, Challenger explosion, Exxon oil spill, Iran contra hearings, Gulf crisis (Kuwait), global warming, ozone depletion, devastation of the rain forests and acid rain. With the world experiencing so many undesirable events it is not surprising that the studies also reflected these events.