Past research

Life Experiences and Health Behaviors in Young Adulthood

The purpose of this study is to understand the association between college students’ life experiences- particularly stressful or upsetting life experiences- and health behaviors such as physical exercise and substance use. The results of this study are to help further our understanding of how people who have experienced a variety of life events engage in different kinds of health behaviors.

Project STAR (Study of Teen Alcohol Risk)

The purpose of the proposed study is to test the efficacy of a two-item question screening measure to identify risk for alcohol-related problems in a sample of adolescents admitted for acute psychiatric care at Erie County Medical Center. Further, this study seeks to determine how risk may relate to psychological distress and other health-related behaviors. Adolescence is a high risk time for a number of negative outcomes, including delinquency, risky sexual behavior, sexual victimization, and substance use. For some youth, ongoing mental health concerns may result in acute psychiatric treatment before the age of 18.  Recently, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has developed a brief, 2-item screening measure that can be used in the early identification of alcohol problems and other risk behaviors. This brief measure offers considerable promise in the early detection of alcohol and other health risks, however, it has not yet been validated for use with adolescents in a medical setting.


Alcohol Information Processing Following Experiential Exposure

In two separate studies, this research seeks to examine causal pathways through which PTSD and trauma cues affect alcohol-related information processing in college students. Both studies will examine the impact of trauma cue exposure on alcohol-related cognitions. The first study will evaluate the impact of trauma cue exposure and PTSD on interference in processing alcohol-related information, using a modified Stroop task. The second study will evaluate the impact of cue exposure and PTSD on the evaluation (positive or negative associations) of alcohol-related information, using an implicit association test. Knowledge derived from these studies will inform interventions designed to alter positive alcohol beliefs so as to decrease drinking on college campuses. Data collection has begun, and will continue through 2014. Funded by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


Life Experiences Assessment Project (LEAP)

The LEAP study was designed to offer information about how life experiences and psychological reactions to these experiences may interact with the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances. We were interested in young adults, transitioning from high school to college. Findings from this study assisted us and other researchers and therapists to develop more effective preventive interventions for substance use in college students as well as address some questions about the influence of life experiences and their consequences on college drop-outs.

Pre-Gaming Studies

Katrina Bytschkow ran a series of Pre-gaming studies during 2008 and 2009. The first was a focus group study that gathered general information about pre-gaming (the practice of consuming alcohol before going out for the night or before a function starts) including motives for the practice. Based on the data collected during those focus group sessions a group of motives were collected and assessed. The next study, which served as Katrina’s senior honors thesis, was the development of a pre-gaming motives measure and an assessment of pre-gaming’s associations with drinking.