Summary of Scholarly Activity

My basic research examines relations among social cognition and risky activity on the part of adolescents and young adults. In addition, I have presented and written on issues pertaining to student training and professional development, and ethical issues in research and teaching.

With respect to social cognition, my research is concerned with understanding how young people perceive themselves and the world around them. In particular, how do young people make decisions about whether to engage in risky behaviors such as substance use, delinquent activity, and sexual activity? Over the last decade, I have examined interrelations among social cognition and alcohol consumption, the effects of exposure to violence, substance use, and delinquent activity.

Alcohol Consumption
My work in this area examines social cognitive variables thought to play a role in drinking by adolescents and young adults. I have found that alcohol-related expectations, evaluations of the potential positive and negative consequences of alcohol use, alcohol-related self efficacy, and parental and peer norms contribute towards adolescent and young adult drinking (Kuther & Higgins-D'Alessandro, 2003) and that psychosocial variables are not unique contributors to the variance in drinking after accounting for these social cognitive predictors (Kuther & Timoshin, 2003). In addition, this research has demonstrated that alcohol-related self efficacy mediates the association between evaluations of the potential negative consequences of drinking and self-reported drinking (Kuther, 2002; Kuther & Higgins-D'Alessandro, 2003; Kuther & Timoshin, 2003). My current work refines and tests this social cognitive model of alcohol use, as well as determines how to apply it to reduce binge drinking by college students.

Violence and Victimization
A second area of my work concerns the effects of exposure to violence and victimization by violence during childhood and adolescence. One of my studies examined the types and extent of community violence experienced by young adolescents from a small suburban city (Kuther & Fisher, 1998). This study demonstrated that victimization was associated with several psychosocial variables, assertiveness served as a protective factor against victimization, and that social support mediated the relation between victimization and distress. Other work in this area includes a review of the literature on the developmental consequences of exposure to violence (Kuther, 1999), a theoretical paper that discusses the potential consequences of exposure to community violence for moral development (Kuther & Wallace, 2003), and an examination of college students' experiences with violence (Kuther & Taliercio, 2001).

Risky Behavior
A third line of research examines risky behavior on the part of adolescents and young adults. Some of my work examines the relationship between moral reasoning and engagement in risky behaviors with high school students. Specifically, I examined the role of perceived competence as a mediator of the association between moral reasoning and engagement in risky activities including substance use and antisocial behavior (Kuther, 2000). In a second study (Kuther & Higgins-D’Alessandro, 2000) I examined how perceptions of risk behaviors as moral, social conventional or personal choices moderate the relationship between Kohlberg-style moral reasoning and engagement in risky behaviors including alcohol and substance use, sexual activity, antisocial behavior, and suicide ideation. The next step in this research is to determine how adolescents and young adults come to perceive risk behaviors as moral, social, or personal choices. In addition, a current research project examines associations among perceived competence, identity development, social cognitive variables, and self-reported engagement in substance use and antisocial behaviors.

Student Development
In addition to the above, I am also interested in assisting students in their professional development. My first book, The Psychology Major’s Handbook (Wadsworth/Thomson Learning), now in it's second edition, is designed to help undergraduates decide whether to major in psychology, succeed in an undergraduate psychology program, learn about jobs available to those with a BA/BS in psychology (and how to prep for them), and apply to graduate school in psychology. Graduate Study in Psychology: Your Guide to Success guides students in the admissions process. Careers in Psychology: Opportunities in a Changing World (Wadsworth/Thomson; co-authored with Bob Morgan at Texas Tech University; 3rd edition), explores the range of career opportunities available with a bachelor's or graduate degree in psychology. A series of specialized career books examines graduate-level paths: Your Career in Psychology: Psychology and Law, Your Career in Psychology: Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Your Career in Psychology: Clinical and Counseling Psychology. A co-edited volume, Life After Graduate School in Psychology: Insider's Advice from New Psychologists, details traditional and alternative career paths taken by new psychologists, in their own voices. Finally, Surviving Graduate School in Psychology: A Pocket Mentor walks students through the graduate school experience, offering guidance on academics, politics, and professional development.

Over the last decade I've presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association on issues particularly relevant to students, such as organizational strategies for completing the dissertation (Kuther, 1998, 2004), writing a curriculum vitae for academic positions (Kuther, 1998, 2003), publishing tips (Kuther, 1999; 2000; 2002), reforming graduate education (Kuther, 2000), careers in psychology (Kuther, 2004), conducting research with undergradutes (Kuther, 2004), and how to foster student participation at professional conferences (Kuther, 1999). I have chaired and co-chaired symposia oriented towards students at meetings of the American Psychological Association on the research process (Tentoni & Kuther, 1997), managing the doctoral dissertation (Primavera & Kuther, 1998), and constructing the curriculum vitae for academic and clinical positions (Kuther, 1998). I have published on fostering student participation in professional conferences (Kuther, 1998) and writing the dissertation (Kuther, 1999), and doctoral training in applied developmental psychology (Kuther, 1996).

Finally, my work has examined ethical issues that arise in practice and applied research with at-risk children and adolescents (Kuther, 1997; Kuther, 2001; Kuther, 2002; Kuther, 2003), and with older adults (Kuther, 1999). In collaborative empirical work, I have examined adolescent views on whether researchers should violate confidentiality if they discover that minor research participants are in jeopardy (Fisher et al., 1996). My current work in this area examines how informed consent processes and statements of confidentiality influence college students' decisions to participate in research studies, as well as their responses to questions about risky behavior.

With regard to the teaching of research ethics, I have assisted in developing and testing a curriculum for integrating research ethics instruction into the undergraduate psychology curriculum (Fisher & Kuther, 1997). I have examined the use of cases to integrate ethics into the undergraduate psychology curriculum (Kuther, 2002; Kuther & Bruzzese, 2001). I have also presented on the Graduate Research Ethics Education Project, a six-year project sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (Kuther, 1997). Finally, recent articles (Kuther, 2002; Kuther, 2003) and conference presentations (Kuther, 2000a; Kuther 2000b; Kuther, 2002) within this area have focused on ethical issues that arise in teaching and conducting research as well as college student perspectives on the ethical basis of professors' actions (Kuther, 2002).