The Psychology and Epidemiology of cRime and Safety perceptiONS (PERSONS) research lab, led by Dr. Carolyn Côté-Lussier, is dedicated to the study of public perceptions of crime and safety, and of the ways in which these perceptions are associated with attitudes, policy preferences, behavioral and health outcomes.
Read more about our research below.
Safety and public health
Socioecological models have been lauded as the preferred twenty-first century approach to public health. A socioecological approach considers the complex and dynamic interactions between individuals and their physical and sociocultural surroundings. These interactive models link neighborhood environments to poorer health through direct (e.g., exposure to toxic environments) and mediated risk exposures. This mediated component refers in part to the impact of environmental neighborhood features on health through individuals' perceptions of their environment.
Our research aims to identify the role of perceptions of neighborhood safety in determining population-level physical and mental health. We ask questions such as: What built (e.g., traffic, lighting, greenery), and social (e.g., indicators of disorder, indicators of social inequality) neighborhood features contribute to adult and child perceptions of safety? Is greater perceived safety associated with improved mental (e.g., psychosocial distress) and physical (e.g., obesity) health outcomes? To what extent do differences in perceived safety help explain inequality-based health disparities?
The findings of this research will contribute to identifying targets for interventions designed to improve perceptions of safety and public health.
Co-Investigator (Principal Investigators: Barnett T.A., McGrath, J.J.; Co-Investigators: Chaix, B., Datta, G., Henderson, M., Kesten, Y., Mathieu, M.-È., Van Hulst, A.). Neighborhood environment and obesity in youth: Investigating nocturnal and diurnal pathways. (Funding agency: Canadian Institutes of Health Research; Total awarded: $444,820).
Co-Principal Investigator (Co-P.I.: Anders Jensen Knudby). Use of ISS photos for measurement of night time lighting. University of Ottawa, Faculty of Arts Special Projects Funding Program ($4,973.00).
Co-Investigator (Principal Investigator: Yan Kestens; Co-Investigators: Drouin, L., Lussier, L., Sauvé, L.). Revitalisation commerciale et du verdissement Pascal /Lapierre : Processus et impacts. (Funding Agency: Direction de la Santé Publique de Montréal; Total awarded: $20,000).
Côté-Lussier, C. & Fitzpatrick, C. (2016). Feelings of safety at school, socioemotional functioning, and classroom engagement. Journal of Adolescent Health. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.01.003
Côté-Lussier, C., Jackson, J., Kestens, Y., Henderson, M., & Barnett, T. (2014). A child’s view: Social and physical environmental features differentially predict parent and child perceived neighborhood safety. Journal of Urban Health, 92(1), 10-23. doi: 10.1007/s11524-014-9917-0
Côté-Lussier, C., Barnett, T. A., Kestens, Y., Tu, M. T., & Séguin, L. (2014). The role of the residential neighborhood in linking youths’ family poverty trajectory to decreased feelings of safety at school. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
Côté-Lussier, C., Fitzpatrick, C., Séguin, L., & Barnett, T. A. (2015). Poor, unsafe, and overweight: The role of feeling unsafe at school in mediating the association among poverty exposure, youth screen time, physical activity, and weight status. American Journal of Epidemiology, 182(1), 67-79. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwv005
Cote-Lussier, C., Mathieu, M. E., & Barnett, T. A. (2015). Independent associations between child and parent perceived neighborhood safety, child screen time, physical activity and BMI: a structural equation modeling approach. International Journal of Obesity. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2015.98
Morality and ideology
Ideological systems are seen as being at the heart of left-right cleavages in political preferences. From an ideological standpoint, policy preferences are explained in part by differences in preferences for tradition, submission to authority and hierarchical as opposed to equal group relations. These preferences are well subsumed by two ideological systems: Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) and Social Dominance Orientation (SDO). A secondary but less investigated view is that individuals' moral systems may also be a source of divergence in left-right political cleavages. From support for biotechnology to the success of social policies, individuals’ morality is front and centre in predicting attitudinal outcomes.
Our research aims to identify the ideological and moral underpinnings of policy preferences and attitudes in the context of crime. We apply leading theoretical frameworks to answer questions such as: To what extent do ideological and moral systems overlap? Does one system precede the other? Do both systems contribute to explaining policy preferences (e.g., support for harsh criminal justice policy?)
We hope that this research will contribute to theoretical developments in the field of political psychology. Furthermore, this research will sensitize decision-makers to the factors contributing to individuals' policy preferences, and contribute to the implementation of balanced social policy.
Côté-Lussier, C. & Carmichael, J. T. (in press). Public support for harsh criminal justice policy and its moral and ideological tides. Psychology, Public Policy and Law.
Jackson, J., Gerber, M. M., & Côté-Lussier, C. (2011). Ideological Roots of Fear of Crime and Punitive Sentiment in Greece and the UK: A Commentary on Cheliotis & Xenakis. In L. Cheliotis & S. Xenakis (Eds.), Crime and Punishment in Contemporary Greece: International Comparative Perspective: Peter Lang.