Dr. Sexton's Research

  • Depression
  • Attachment
  • Emotion, and diversity issues

Depressive subtypes are actually related to attachment , and are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) as atypical and typical depression but in the psychodynamic literature are often called relatedness (anaclitic) and self-definitional (introjective) depression (Blatt & Luyten 2011).  This research involves 14 samples with a total of 4,770 participants, and has involved collaborations with Dr. Petrak’s lab in Germany (Ruhr-Universitat Bochum) on biomarkers of subtypes of depression, Dr. Huprich’s labs in Kansas (Wichita State) and Michigan (Eastern Michigan University) on personality traits relating to subtypes of depression, Dr. Esquivel-Santovena’s lab in Mexico (Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez) on the role of subtypes of depression in spousal abuse, and Dr. Basnet’s lab in Finland (National Institute of Health and Welfare research program with refugees in Sri Lanka) on help-seeking behavior and subtypes of depression.  So far, I have demonstrated the construct validity of these subtypes via confirmatory factor analysis, that the constructs are related to predicted experiences of pain, personality traits and pathology, social outcomes, therapy preference and outcomes, substance abuse, various biomarkers, and objective ratings of behaviors by experts conducting home visits. Diversity is also a major variable in this research, influencing outcomes and illustrating the impact of both culture and privilege.   As of 2016, this has resulted in 11 presentations at conferences, involving 10 students.  We are currently working towards writing up publication, and also a grant applying this work concerning different outcomes to improve care at local area clinics.

In terms of attachment theory, this research has resulted in 2 presentations since I joined the program, based on two studies involving a total of 123 participants and engaging 4 of our students in research and presentations at conferences.  The research has focused on how attachment is related to different emotional regulation techniques and how that results in various emotional presentations, as well as exploring how prolonged separation influences attachment and the experience of PTSD for Hispanic-Americans.   Currently 2 of these students have continued this project to work on a rough draft for publication.