Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
Introduction: Forensic psychology is one of the fastest-growing areas in psychology. Over the past few decades, forensic psychology research has had significant impact on legal outcomes and clinical practice. Further, the population served by forensic psychologists has become increasingly diverse. However, past reviews of forensic psychology research indicates cultural factors are not always prominent variables of interest. Accordingly, this study examined how cultural variables are captured within forensic psychology research, and identified the proportion of articles in major forensic psychology journals focused on multicultural research. This study aimed to extend previous work by examining the incorporation of cultural variables capturing a number of sociocultural groups, as well as trends in multicultural considerations within forensic psychology. The primary methodology that was applied – content analysis – is frequently used to study scholarly work and trends within psychology. As was intended here, content analysis often provides insight, reflection, feedback, and critique, and highlights areas for growth and continued development. Methods: Given the present study’s focus on forensic psychology research, journal selection was confined to outlets that exclusively or primarily address forensic psychology topics. Eight specialist journals were selected as they are among the most frequently cited within the field of forensic psychology, suggesting that articles published within these journals are considered to be influential and relevant to psychology and law scholars. All original articles from the above eight identified journals published from 2015 to 2017 were pooled for article selection. As the present study was interested in examining the incorporation of cultural variables into forensic psychology research, theoretical, review, and research articles were selected for inclusion in the sample. Sixty articles were randomly selected to create the subset of articles from the eight journals to create the dataset of articles to be coded. This random selection process provided an equally distributed, likely representative, and sufficiently large sample of 480 articles comprising the total data base for the analyses. To examine how culture is captured in these articles, this study focused on the presence of the following cultural groups as they are used as topic areas or variables within forensic psychology research: age/generation, race/ethnicity, religion/spirituality, language, sexual orientation, gender identity and diversity, socioeconomic status, ability/disability status, neighborhood, immigration, and indigenous heritage. Articles were coded by four researchers who used a coding sheet and accompanying codebook designed for the purposes of this study. Acceptable inter-rater reliability was achieved as reflected in kappa coefficients ranging from .84 to .98 for items. All sections of articles were coded to examine inclusion of cultural variables. Additionally, articles were categorized as multiculturally-focused when: 1) theoretical and review articles had cultural variables mentioned in the title and/or in the stated aims/purpose of the article; or 2) research articles had cultural variables present in the title and/or aims and hypotheses of the study. Coding sheet items were designed to collect categorical data and descriptive analyses, specifically frequency statistics, were conducted to address study aims. Results: The final sample was comprised of 462 articles; 76 articles were classified as theoretical or review papers (2015, n = 22; 2016, n = 24; 2017, n = 30), and 386 as research articles (2015, n = 118; 2016, n = 148; 2017, n = 120). Results revealed a mean of about three cultural variables incorporated into articles as a whole, with a standard deviation of 1.6, and a range of 0 to 9. Almost all articles (96%) incorporated at least one cultural variable. Out of the study sample of 462 articles, 44% (n = 203) were classified as multiculturally-focused. Areas of notable strengths include high rates of cultural inclusion within sample demographics and common incorporation of certain variables, specifically for age/generation, gender identity, and race/ethnicity. Findings suggest that forensic psychology research has a limited and selective focus of cultural inclusion. General inclusion of cultural variables in any section of articles was notably higher than rates of multiculturally-focused articles. Additionally, results suggest a disproportionate representation of cultural variables within reporting of participant demographics and an overrepresentation of majority groups. Conclusions: It is hoped the present study serves as a call to action for the field of forensic psychology. The current findings have identified a number of areas for improvement of cultural research within forensic psychology; mainly, that the field needs to better incorporate culture into all aspects of its research. This study generated both positive outcomes but also areas of concern, and it is hoped that in particular, identifying areas requiring attention will challenge the field to grow, adapt, and develop in its approach to conducting cultural research.
Aguiar, Rebecca J., "MULTICULTURAL RESEARCH IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY: WHERE ARE WE NOW?" (2020). Open Access Dissertations. Paper 1189.