School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Laura Lambe

PhD candidate in Psychology

Laura Lambe

Queen’s Lambe wins Vanier for anti-bullying research

By Karl Hardy, July 2016

Laura Lambe’s research into peer defending behavior in school bullying has won the support of the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. For her Vanier-supported PhD research, Laura plans to explore the role of peer defending behaviour in school bullying.

“While the negative impacts of being bullied have been well documented, the impacts of witnessing bullying and peer defending are less understood,” Laura explains. “Defending includes a variety of behaviours, such as using aggression or seeking help from an adult. While defenders are often effective in stopping bullying, the act of defending is not without risk as youth are becoming personally involved in the bullying situation. This is potentially problematic, given that bullying prevention efforts encourage youth to take on the defender role. In the extant research, unique defending behaviours are conflated together under the broad category of “defending”. In reality, it is likely that certain forms of defending behaviour are associated with these risks, while other forms of defending may provide beneficial outcomes.”

Laura’s proposed doctoral research will address these issues in a series of studies. In Study 1, she will create and validate a scale of defending behaviours. She expects to determine if certain types of defending are associated with more favourable outcomes compared to other types of defending. In Study 2, she will proceed to use this scale to investigate both the contextual factors that predict each type of defending (e.g., social status, number of peers present), and their respectful longitudinal outcomes (e.g., psychosocial difficulties). This collection of research will inform future intervention efforts that encourage youth to take on the defender role.

“I hope that researchers and policy makers will be able to endorse specific, evidence-based defending behaviours that are beneficial for both youth who are victimized and for youth who are defenders,” Laura says. “Instead of just telling youth to stand up to bullying, we need to be able to tell youth how to do this safely and effectively! “

Laura grew up in Nova Scotia and completed her undergraduate degree at Dalhousie University in 2014 before coming to Queen’s that fall to begin her Master’s.

“Like a lot of undergrads, I originally had dreams of going to medical school but quickly fell in love with psychology when I started volunteering in different psychology labs,” said Laura. “My honours thesis work really spurred by interest in relationships, where I investigated the association between relationship conflict, drinking to cope, and alcohol-related problems among romantic partners.”

Laura is currently working on finishing up her Master’s thesis in the Bully Lab with Dr. Wendy Craig. Her project looks at the risk and protective factors associated with adolescent substance use, and explores the link between bullying involvement and substance use. Laura is interested in whether bullying and victimization served as unique risk factors for frequent substance use among adolescents, or whether these associations could be explained by other factors such as friendships with deviant peers or negative mood. At the same time, her work investigates whether the presence of protective factors, such as healthy relationships with peers and parents, buffered the link between bullying involvement and substance use.

“I’m so thankful for everyone who has encouraged and supported my academic career, My current supervisor and past supervisors (Dr. Craig, and Dr. Stewart), my family, and friends all deserve an award for helping me along my academic journey. As a future clinical psychologist, I definitely want to pursue a career that allows me to explore both my research and clinical interests. Whatever happens, I definitely want a career that focuses on knowledge mobilization and putting research findings into action,” says Laura. “It’s such an honour to have the support of a Vanier award to help my pursuits. For me, the support of Vanier means more opportunities learn from other experts in the field and disseminate my own research findings.”

When Laura is not busy with research or clinical work, she is very active within the Queen’s Psychology Department and also volunteers as a mentor with the Canadian Psychological Association. Otherwise, you can find her at the yoga studio or catching up on Netflix.