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Undergraduate Researchers

Megan Powell

Megan Powell, Psychology

“Motivational Interviewing and Intimate Partner Violence Recidivism:
An Eight Year Follow-Up on Men Who Batter”

Intimate partner violence (IPV) has persisted in society as a major public health issue. The current study focuses on intervention for men who perpetrate IPV. The findings are generally divided and inconclusive, and experts in the field continue to struggle to find a universally-successful IPV intervention program. However, recent literature shows promise in the way of an approach called motivational interviewing (MI), which is meant to instill a sense of responsibility and a desire to change in batterers. Recent study findings have revealed improvements in IPV perpetrators’ engagement into a change process when exposed to MI. The current research analyzes the long-term criminal recidivism rates over an eight year period after treatment, comparing groups of men who were treated either using MI or a standard intake (SI) at the Howard County Domestic Violence Center. Data on criminal recidivism is currently being organized and quantitative findings will be available to present at URCAD. If the findings demonstrate significantly lower recidivism for men who received MI, this will provide strong support for more IPV intervention programs to adopt MI methods, and will contribute to the search for more universally-effective treatments for male perpetrators of IPV.

What research experiences have you had?
I started working with a clinical psychology doctoral candidate Amber Norwood on her dissertation, utilizing the Maryland Judiciary Case Search site to find and code participants’ criminal histories. Her thesis investigated the effects of a number of demographic variables on criminal recidivism among a population of people who were found Not Criminally Responsible (the insanity defense) for their crimes, and were thus hospitalized instead of imprisoned. From there, I started work on my current independent project. Currently, I work in Dr. Robin Barry’s relationship lab, investigating how and why disengagement among newlywed couples leads to distress.

How did you find the research opportunity?
I had worked with Dr. Chris Murphy, chair and professor of the Psychology department, for about two years doing various tasks around his Relationship Violence lab, as well as working with his graduate student, Amber Norwood. At the end of my sophomore year, Dr. Murphy discussed some of my options for the next year, and that included doing an independent project. He laid out some ways that some old data could be used to ask a new research question, and we went from there.

Who did you work with on this project?
I’m working with Dr. Murphy and his graduate student, Brian Jobe.

Was this your first independent research project?
Yes, this was my first independent project. I knew I wanted to be involved with research during my career and I thought this would be a great way to be exposed to it, as well as impress graduate schools!

Do you get course credit for this work? Paid? How much time do you put into it?
I’m getting three credits for each semester I’ve been working on this project (two, including this semester) for PSYC 490. Technically it’s eight hours per week but it fluctuates depending on what work needs to be done.

How did you learn what you needed to know to be successful in this project?
Dr. Murphy and Brian have been just amazing, guiding me through writing my paper for PSYC 490, and explaining along the way the logic and flow a research paper needs to have. I knew inherently that I would have to stay on top of the work required for this project (literature review, writing the paper, data analysis) or I would fall behind very quickly.

What was the hardest part about your research?
The hardest part is always keeping up with the work. You need to make sure you are constantly making more and more edits to make sure that your paper, abstract, poster, etc, is the best that it can be. You want it to be quality writing that you would see in an academic journal.

What was the most unexpected thing?
I knew my paper would take a lot of edits, but I don’t think I realized just how much! I think I was also a little surprised at how rusty my research paper writing was. You really need to practice all the time. It’s easy to fall back on poor writing habits.

Is this the first time you have applied to present at URCAD? How did you find out about applying to present your work? Are you excited?
This is the first time I have applied to URCAD, and I am super excited and nervous! In past years I’ve seen students getting ready to present, and I knew that if I could get a research project together, I would definitely want to apply. So here I am!

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Do it now! There are always opportunities to get involved with research and there is nothing worse than regretting something that could have helped you advance your career.

What are your career goals?
My goal is to go on to graduate school in a clinical psychology Ph.D. program. I hope to continue doing research on relationship violence and criminal recidivism behaviors. Ultimately, I would like to work in the courts conducting court-ordered assessments (such as to determine competency), and in the prisons doing therapy with inmates. Whatever I end up doing, I always want to be working with the criminal population. I find there is a wealth of research just waiting to be done with this population, and it’s always extremely interesting!

What else are you involved in on campus?
I’ve been a Resident Assistant on the Honors College Living Learning Community (LLC) in Susquehanna for the past two years. I’m also working with Dr. Robin Barry in her Couples and Family Relationships lab, which has been a great experience!