Dissertation defense by Kathleen Donnelly-Wijting

Date and Time:
29 August 2013
1:00 PM
College Hall - Lyceum

To:      Students, Faculty and Staff
From:    Carol J. Erting, Ph.D., Dean of the Graduate School

It is my pleasure to announce that Ms. Kathleen P. Donnelly-Wijting, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Psychology, will defend her dissertation on "HIV/AIDS Risk Reduction and Deaf People: Knowledge, Attitudes, Behavior, Perception Of Susceptibility, And Self-Efficacy" on Thursday, August 29, at 1 p.m. in the Lyceum, College Hall. The first forty minutes of the dissertation defense are open to the Gallaudet community.

Ms. Donnelly-Wijting's study broadens the understanding of HIV risk by examining behavior, perceptions of susceptibility, and self-efficacy, in addition to the heavily studied psychological factors of knowledge and attitudes about HIV/AIDS.  Deaf and hearing participants were recruited from professional organizations, community agencies, and social events.  The AIDS Risk Reduction Model, incorporating Social Cognitive Learning and the Health Belief Model, was used as the theoretical framework for the study in an effort to explain behavior change.  Results showed deaf people demonstrated significantly less knowledge of HIV/AIDS, less tolerant attitudes toward HIV/AIDS, and lower levels of self-efficacy when compared to hearing participants.  Moreover, significant relationships were revealed between knowledge and attitudes of HIV/AIDS, and risky behavior and the perception of susceptibility of contracting HIV.  Furthermore, self-efficacy was significantly related to each of the psychological factors including knowledge, attitudes, behavior, and perception of susceptibility.  Implications of the study identified self-efficacy as an important psychological factor in terms of behavior change.  The results suggest people with higher self-efficacy weigh the risks and benefits of particular behaviors and regulate respective behavior accordingly.  Analysis shows that behavior change is a complex process requiring knowledge and healthy attitudes as well as the ability to label risks, the commitment to make good decisions, and the confidence to negotiate healthy actions.  

The members of Ms. Donnelly-Wijting's dissertation committee are Dr. Carolyn Corbett, chair of the dissertation committee, Department of Psychology; Dr. Tania Thomas-Presswood, Department of Psychology; Dr. Daniel Koo, Department of Psychology; Dr. Amy Wilson, Department of Education; and Dr. R. Kevin Mallinson, Goldfarb School of Nursing, Barnes-Jewish College.

Ms. Donnelly-Wijting began her graduate studies at Gallaudet in 2003, majoring in Clinical Psychology and International Development.  She worked as a clinician at Gallaudet University's Mental Health Center and the Multicultural Clinical Center in Springfield, VA. She is currently completing her year-long clinical internship at the Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center (TCFTC) in Indiantown, Florida and will continue to serve TCFTC as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the fall, focusing on competency evaluations, non-restorability, malingering, and illness management and recovery.

Please join me in extending best wishes to Ms. Donnelly-Wijting for her dissertation defense.

Posted by:
Gaurav Mathur
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