Research and relationships
As an undergraduate, Jessica Fales of Winslow, Maine, briefly attended Hamilton College, intending to major in English and, ultimately, teach. But when she took an Introduction to Psychology course, she developed a keen interest in abnormal psychology. She realized that the best place for her to further develop this passion was at the University of Maine.
“I was very attracted to the Psychology Department here because of the sheer number of courses, opportunities for undergraduates and the research interests of faculty,” says Fales, who transferred to UMaine in 2002.
Fales was one of the first undergraduates to be part of the department’s research-intensive track. She became involved in several ongoing projects, working in the laboratories of professors Sandra Sigmon and Douglas Nangle, and being mentored by then doctoral students Teresa Edenfield and Agnieszka Serwik.
For her independent project, Fales used a large dataset to explore whether social anxiety was a risk factor for dating aggression in college students. She found one component of social anxiety that stood out: fear of negative evaluation. For males ages 18 to 23, concern that one would be negatively evaluated by others was a predictor of psychological aggression toward their dating partner, Fales says.
Fales took her research interests in dating, gender differences and internalizing problems into her graduate work, which she began in 2005 with Nangle as her mentor. In particular, she was interested in the growing body of research showing that dating relationships, which are developmentally normative experiences, were associated with depressive symptoms for females, but not for males. She is interested in exploring factors that might contribute to adolescent female’s increased risk for difficulties, as such factors may be prime targets for intervention.
Fales’ dissertation research on dating couples’ behavioral, affective and physiological responses to interpersonal stress and their relationship to depression continues this year. This summer, she will begin a required, highly competitive one-year predoctoral clinical internship in a medical center setting.
And like the undergraduate experience that set her on a research course, Fales is mentoring Uriah Hedrich of Presque Isle, Maine, a double major in psychology and philosophy.
Image Description: Jessica Fales