Frank Vitaro

McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

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Publications (374)1094.07 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Background The monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene has been shown to moderate the impact of maltreatment on antisocial behaviour. Replication efforts have, however, yielded inconsistent results.AimsTo investigate whether the interaction between the MAOA gene and violence is present across the full distribution of violence or emerges at higher levels of exposure.Method Participants were 327 male members of the Québec Longitudinal Study of Kindergarten Children. Exposure to violence comprised retrospective reports of mother's and father's maltreatment, sexual and physical abuse. Conduct disorder and antisocial personality symptoms were assessed in semi-structured interviews and partner violence, property-violent crimes and arrest were self-reported.ResultsNon-linear interactions between the MAOA gene and violence were detected, suggesting that the genetic moderation may come about once a certain level of violence is experienced.Conclusions Future studies should investigate the mechanisms translating substantial violence exposure, which could, subsequently, trigger the expression of genetically based differences in antisocial behaviour.
    The British journal of psychiatry: the journal of mental science 10/2015; DOI:10.1192/bjp.bp.114.162081 · 7.99 Impact Factor
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    DESCRIPTION: This study examined the associations between intrinsic motivation and achievement in mathematics in a sample of 1478 Canadian school-age children followed from grades 1 to 4 (age 7-10). Children self-reported their intrinsic motivation toward mathematics, whereas achievement was measured through direct assessment of mathematics abilities. Cross-lagged models showed that achievement predicted intrinsic motivation from grades 1 to 2, and from grades 2 to 4. However, intrinsic motivation did not predict achievement at any time. This developmental pattern of association was gender invariant. Contrary to the hypothesis that motivation and achievement are reciprocally associated over time, our results point to a directional association from prior achievement to subsequent intrinsic motivation. Results are discussed in light of their theoretical and practical implications.

  • Psychoneuroendocrinology 09/2015; 61:42-3. DOI:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.07.505 · 4.94 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Prenatal and early postnatal adversities have been shown to be associated with brain development. However, we do not know how much of this association is confounded by genetics, nor whether the postnatal environment can moderate the impact of in utero adversity. This study used a monozygotic (MZ) twin design to assess (1) the association between birth weight (BW) and brain volume in adolescence, (2) the association between within-twin-pair BW discordance and brain volume discordance in adolescence, and (3) whether the association between BW and brain volume in adolescence is mediated or moderated by early negative maternal parenting behaviours. These associations were assessed in a sample of 108 MZ twins followed longitudinally since birth and scanned at age 15. The total grey matter (GM) and white matter (WM) volumes were obtained using the Diffeomorphic Anatomical Registration Through Exponentiated Lie Algebra (DARTEL) toolbox in the Statistical Parametric Mapping version 8 (SPM8). We found that the BW was significantly associated with the total GM and WM volumes, particularly in the superior frontal gyrus and thalamus. Within-twin-pair discordance in BW was also significantly associated with within-pair discordance in both the GM and the WM volumes, supporting the hypothesis that the specific in utero environment is associated with brain development independently of genetics. Early maternal hostile parenting behaviours and depressive symptoms were associated with total GM volume but not WM volume. Finally, greater early maternal hostility may moderate the association between the BW and GM volume in adolescence, since the positive association between the BW and total GM volume appeared stronger at higher levels of maternal hostility (trend). Together, these findings support the importance of the in utero and early environments for brain development. © 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel.
    Developmental Neuroscience 08/2015; DOI:10.1159/000430982 · 2.70 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To estimate trajectories of gambling variety from mid-adolescence to age 30, and compare the different trajectory-groups with regard to the type and the frequency of gambling activities practiced, and gambling-related problems. Prospective longitudinal cohort study. Province of Quebec, Canada. A mixed-gender general population cohort assessed at ages 15 (N = 1882), 22 (N = 1785), and 30 (N = 1358). Adolescent and adult versions of the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS). Group-based trajectory analysis identified three distinct trajectories: A Late-onset Low trajectory (26.7% of sample) initiating gambling at age-22, an Early-onset Low trajectory (64.8% of sample), characterized by 1-2 different activities from age-15 onwards, and a High trajectory (8.4% of sample), with an average of 4-5 different activities from age 15 to 30. Males (14.2%) were 4 times more likely to be on a High-trajectory than females (3.5%) (p < .001). Preferred types of gambling activities were similar across the three trajectories. Participants on a High-trajectory reported higher gambling frequency at ages 15 and 30, and were more likely to experience problem gambling at age 30: 3.09 (95%CI = 1.66, 5.75) and 2.26 (95%CI = 1.27, 4.04) times more, respectively, than Late-onset Low and Early-onset Low participants, even when socioeconomic status (SES), frequency of gambling and problem gambling in adolescence, gender, age-30 education, SES, and frequency of gambling, were controlled. Engaging in several different types of gambling in early adulthood appears to be a risk factor for emergence of problem gambling. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Addiction 08/2015; DOI:10.1111/add.13083 · 4.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This study examined the contribution of nonparental child-care services received during the preschool years to the development of social behavior between kindergarten and the end of elementary school with a birth cohort from Québec, Canada (N = 1,544). Mothers reported on the use of child-care services, while elementary school teachers rated children's shyness, social withdrawal, prosociality, opposition, and aggression. Children who received nonparental child-care services were less shy, less socially withdrawn, more oppositional, and more aggressive at school entry (age 6 years). However, these differences disappeared during elementary school as children who received exclusive parental care caught up with those who received nonparental care services. This “catch-up” effect from the perspective of children's adaptation to the social group is discussed.
    Child Development 08/2015; 86(5). DOI:10.1111/cdev.12399 · 4.92 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Studies of gambling starting before adulthood in the general population are either cross-sectional, based on the stability of these behaviors between 2 time points, or cover a short developmental period. The present study aimed at investigating the developmental trajectories of gambling problems across 3 key periods of development, mid-adolescence, early adulthood, and age 30, in a mixed-gender cohort from the general population. Using a semiparametric mixture model, trajectories were computed based on self-reports collected at ages 15 (N = 1,882), 22 (N = 1,785), and 30 (N = 1,358). Two distinct trajectories were identified: 1 trajectory including males and females who were unlikely to have experienced gambling problems across the 15-year period, and 1 trajectory including participants likely to have experienced at least 1 problem over the last 12 months at each time of assessment. Participants following a high trajectory were predominantly male, participated frequently in 3 to 4 different gambling activities, and were more likely to report substance use and problems related to their alcohol and drug consumption at age 30. Thus, gambling problems in the general population are already observable at age 15 in a small group of individuals, who maintain some level of these problems through early adulthood, before moderately but significantly desisting by age 30, while also experiencing other addictive behaviors and related problems. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
    Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 07/2015; DOI:10.1037/adb0000102 · 2.09 Impact Factor
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    07/2015; DOI:10.1080/21683603.2015.1044631#.Vb958_l_NBc
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    ABSTRACT: Little is known about why people differ in their levels of academic motivation. This study explored the etiology of individual differences in enjoyment and self-perceived ability for several school subjects in nearly 13,000 twins aged 9–16 from 6 countries. The results showed a striking consistency across ages, school subjects, and cultures. Contrary to common belief, enjoyment of learning and children’s perceptions of their competence were no less heritable than cognitive ability. Genetic factors explained approximately 40% of the variance and all of the observed twins’ similarity in academic motivation. Shared environmental factors, such as home or classroom, did not contribute to the twin’s similarity in academic motivation. Environmental influences stemmed entirely from individual specific experiences.
    Personality and Individual Differences 07/2015; 80:51-63. DOI:10.1016/j.paid.2015.02.006 · 1.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The timing and mechanisms underlying the development of psychopathic traits in children is a critical topic in psychopathy research. The present study sought to examine psychopathic traits in children, ages 5.5 to 8.5, using items which were included in multiple waves of a large longitudinal study of approximately 900 community children, the Québec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (QLSCD/ ELDEQ). Items were selected from the ELDEQ battery that corresponded to the items on the Psychopathy Checklist – Youth Version (PCL: YV) for 12 to 18 year old youth. Exploratory factor analyses using a Geomin rotation and the WLSMV estimator revealed a stable, well-fitting two-factor model at each of the three age points, ranging from approximately 5.5 to 8.5 years of age (68-80 months, 80-92 months, and 92-104 months). However, items did not correspond directly to the two-factor model of Psychopathy Checklist psychopathy, in which Factor One contains interpersonal and affective features and Factor Two captures antisocial and behavior symptoms. The first factor in the current model contains items involving affective, interpersonal, and lifestyle (and two antisocial) items, while the second factor consists of items measuring aggressive and antisocial behaviors. Current findings suggest that psychopathic traits are moderately stable between the ages of 5.5 and 8.5. This measure of psychopathic traits may have implications for the future recognition and treatment of young children by aiding in early detection of psychopathic traits.
    Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy, Chicago, IL; 06/2015
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    ABSTRACT: The mechanisms underlying the development of psychopathic traits in children are not well understood. In opposition to the emotion deficit hypotheses, the affect dysregulation theory posits that many children who later develop psychopathic traits experience substantial negative affect early in development but learn to block or tune out their emotional experiences. Such a process leads to the development of callous, unemotional traits and corresponding antisocial behavior. The present study sought to test this developmental trajectory by examining negative affect in approximately 900 toddlers, ages 17 months and 29 months of age, and later psychopathic traits in children, ages 5.5 to 8.5. Using data from the Québec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (QLSCD/ ELDEQ), items were selected that appeared to correspond to constructs measured by the Psychopathy Checklist – Youth Version (PCL: YV) and examined using an exploratory factor analysis; a nineteen item, two- factor model provided the best fit. The first factor in the model consisted of items describing primarily affective, interpersonal, and lifestyle traits associated with psychopathy, whereas the second factor consisted of items describing antisocial and aggressive behaviors related to the antisocial facet of psychopathy. A measure of negative affect was constructed using items from the Emotional Disorder Scale utilized in the ELDEQ study. A structural equation model revealed that negative affective experiences at 29 months predicted scores on the second factor of psychopathic traits (aggressive and antisocial behavior) at seven years of age (b = 0.145, p = 0.042). However, negative affect did not predict scores on the first factor of psychopathic traits. An RMSEA of 0.028 and a CFI of 0.939 indicate an adequate fitting model. Contradictory to emotional deficit perspectives, these findings suggest that young children with conduct problems likely experience negative emotions as other children do. These findings suggest that children characterized by early antisocial behavior and aggression during middle childhood also have relatively higher levels of negative emotion earlier in life. Although these results partially corroborate the affect dysregulation theory, it is important to keep in mind that many analyses revealed no relationships between psychopathy and negative affect in this community sample.
    Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy, Chicago, IL; 06/2015
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    ABSTRACT: The timing and mechanisms underlying the development of psychopathic traits in children is a critical topic in psychopathy research. The present study sought to examine psychopathic traits in children, ages 5.5 to 8.5, using items which were included in multiple waves of a large longitudinal study of approximately 900 community children, the Québec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (QLSCD/ ELDEQ). Items were selected from the ELDEQ battery that corresponded to the items on the Psychopathy Checklist – Youth Version (PCL: YV) for 12 to 18 year old youth. Exploratory factor analyses using a Geomin rotation and the WLSMV estimator revealed a stable, well-fitting one-factor model at each of the three age points, ranging from approximately 5.5 to 8.5 years of age (68-80 months, 80-92 months, and 92-104 months). Current findings suggest that psychopathic traits are moderately stable between the ages of 5.5 and 8.5. This measure of psychopathic traits may have implications for the future recognition and treatment of young children by aiding in early detection of psychopathic traits.
    Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy; 06/2015
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    ABSTRACT: Temperament and parental practices (PP) are important predictors of adolescent alcohol use (AU); however, less is known about how they combine to increase or decrease risk of AU. This study examined whether age 6 temperament (i.e., impulsivity and inhibitory control) interacted with age 6 coercive PP and/or age 14 parental monitoring to predict AU at 15 years among 209 adolescents. Results showed that low parental monitoring was associated with more frequent AU and that coercive PP interacted with impulsivity to predict AU. This interaction was examined as a function of two models that were not studied before in the prediction of AU: the diathesis–stress model (i.e., impulsive children are more “vulnerable” to adverse PP than those with an easy temperament); and the differential susceptibility model (i.e., impulsive children are also more likely to benefit from good PP). Results supported the differential susceptibility model by showing that impulsive children were not only at higher risk for AU when combined with high coercive PP but also benefit from the absence of coercive PP. This supports the suggestion that the conception of certain temperament characteristics, or in this case impulsivity, as a “vulnerability” for adolescent AU, may need revision because it misrepresents the malleability it may imply.
    Development and Psychopathology 06/2015; DOI:10.1017/S0954579415000437 · 4.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In both adolescents and adults, gambling problems and depressive symptoms co-occur and share some common risk factors (e.g., impulsivity and socio-family risk). However, little is known about (1) the developmental course of the co-morbidity of these problems; (2) variables that may moderate the effect of these common risk factors on gambling problems and depressive symptoms. Of specific interest could be individuals' social relationships with significant others such as parents and friends, because research shows that they moderate the effect of other risk factors on gambling problems and depressive symptoms. The goals of this study were to: (a) identify developmental pathways for gambling problems and depressive symptoms, with a focus on co-morbidity; (b) assess the moderating effect of relationship quality with parents and friends on the link between common risk factors and the trajectories of gambling problems and depressive symptoms. Study participants were 878 males. Predictors were assessed during childhood and adolescence and gambling problems and depressive symptoms were assessed in late adolescence and young adulthood. Latent class analysis revealed four distinct joint trajectories of gambling problems and depressive symptoms. Subsequent logistic regression revealed that impulsivity predicted membership in all pathogenic trajectories, and quality of the relationship with parents predicted membership in depressogenic trajectories. In addition, we found that the membership in the comorbid trajectory can be predicted by an interaction between friendship quality and socio-family risk.
    Journal of Gambling Behavior 05/2015; DOI:10.1007/s10899-015-9546-x · 1.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Numerous studies have shown that aggressive and non-aggressive antisocial behaviors are important precursors of later adjustment problems. There is also strong empirical evidence that both types of antisocial behavior are partially influenced by genetic factors. However, despite its important theoretical and practical implications, no study has examined the question whether environmental factors differentially moderate the expression of genetic influences on the two types of antisocial behavior. Using a genetically informed design based on 266 monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs, this study examined whether the expression of genetic risk for aggressive and non-aggressive antisocial behavior varies depending on the peer group's injunctive norms (i.e., the degree of acceptability) of each type of antisocial behavior. Self-reported aggressive and non-aggressive antisocial behavior and classroom-based sociometric nominations were collected when participants were 10 years old. Multivariate genetic analyses revealed some common genetic factors influencing both types of antisocial behavior (i.e., general antisocial behavior) as well as genetic influences specific to non-aggressive antisocial behavior. However, genetic influences on general antisocial behavior, as well as specific genetic influences on non-aggressive antisocial behavior, vary depending on the injunctive classroom norms regarding these behaviors. These findings speak to the power of peer group norms in shaping aggressive and non-aggressive antisocial behavior. They also contribute further to understanding the distinctive development of both types of antisocial behavior. Finally, they may have important implications for prevention purposes.
    Journal of Youth and Adolescence 05/2015; 44(7). DOI:10.1007/s10964-015-0296-y · 2.72 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background Only a minority of drug and alcohol users develops a substance use disorder (SUD). Cross-sectional studies suggest that this differential vulnerability commonly reflects a developmental trajectory characterized by diverse externalizing behaviors. Here, we examined the relationship between these features and substance use in a prospectively followed birth cohort. Methods 242 adolescents followed since birth were assessed on externalizing traits (11-16 y.o.), sensation seeking (16 y.o.), substance use (12-16 y.o.), socio-economic status (1-16 y.o.), sex, family history (FH) of SUDs, prenatal substance exposure, and family functioning (11-16 y.o.). Linear regression analyses were conducted to identify predictors of substance use, particularly frequency and age of onset, both established predictors of substance related problems. Results Multiple regression analyses indicated that externalizing traits, FH and sensation seeking predicted alcohol (R2= 0.183, p < 0.001) and cannabis use frequency at age 16 (R2=0.169, p<0.001) and age of alcohol use onset (R2=0.22, p < 0.001). Hierarchical regression analyses suggested that, despite a unique contribution of FH and externalizing traits, there is considerable overlap in their variance explaining alcohol use frequency and age of onset. For cannabis, the effect of FH is predominantly explained by overlapping variance with externalizing traits. Sensation seeking contributed more uniquely to alcohol and cannabis use frequency, showing modestly overlapping variance with externalizing traits and none with FH in predicting age of alcohol use onset. Conclusions These findings suggest that externalizing traits, FH and sensation seeking reliably predict substance use during adolescence and may serve as important developmental risk trajectories for SUDs.
    Society of Biological Psychiatry, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; 05/2015
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    ABSTRACT: Childhood sleepwalking and sleep terrors are 2 parasomnias with a risk of serious injury for which familial aggregation has been shown. To assess the prevalence of sleepwalking and sleep terrors during childhood; to investigate the link between early sleep terrors and sleepwalking later in childhood; and to evaluate the degree of association between parental history of sleepwalking and presence of somnambulism and sleep terrors in children. Sleep data from a large prospective longitudinal cohort (the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development) of 1940 children born in 1997 and 1998 in the province were studied from March 1999 to March 2011. Prevalence of sleep terrors and sleepwalking was assessed yearly from ages 11/2 and 21/2 years, respectively, to age 13 years through a questionnaire completed by the mother. Parental history of sleepwalking was also queried. The peak of prevalence was observed at 11/2 years for sleep terrors (34.4% of children; 95% CI, 32.3%-36.5%) and at age 10 years for sleepwalking (13.4%; 95% CI, 11.3%-15.5%). As many as one-third of the children who had early childhood sleep terrors developed sleepwalking later in childhood. The prevalence of childhood sleepwalking increases with the degree of parental history of sleepwalking: 22.5% (95% CI, 19.2%-25.8%) for children without a parental history of sleepwalking, 47.4% (95% CI, 38.9%-55.9%) for children who had 1 parent with a history of sleepwalking, and 61.5% (95% CI, 42.8%-80.2%) for children whose mother and father had a history of sleepwalking. Moreover, parental history of sleepwalking predicted the incidence of sleep terrors in children as well as the persistent nature of sleep terrors. These findings substantiate the strong familial aggregation for the 2 parasomnias and lend support to the notion that sleepwalking and sleep terrors represent 2 manifestations of the same underlying pathophysiological entity.
    05/2015; DOI:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.127
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    ABSTRACT: Background Little is known about how children differ in the onset and evolution of separation anxiety (SA) symptoms during the preschool years, and how SA develops into separation anxiety disorder. In a large, representative population-based sample, we investigated the developmental trajectories of SA symptoms from infancy to school entry, their early associated risk factors, and their associations with teachers' ratings of SA in kindergarten.Methods Longitudinal assessment of SA trajectories and risk factors in a cohort of 1,933 families between the ages of 1.5 and 6 years.ResultsAnalyses revealed a best-fitting, 4-trajectory solution, including a prevailing, unaffected Low-Persistent group (60.2%), and three smaller groups of distinct developmental course: a High-Increasing (6.9%), a High-Decreasing (10.8%), and a Low-Increasing group (22.1%). The High-Increasing group remained high throughout the preschool years and was the only trajectory to predict teacher-assessed SA at age 6 years. Except for the High-Increasing, all trajectories showed substantial reduction in symptoms by age 6 years. The High-Increasing and High-Decreasing groups shared several early risk factors, but the former was uniquely associated with higher maternal depression, maternal smoking during pregnancy, and parental unemployment.Conclusions Most children with high SA profile at age 1.5 years are expected to progressively recover by age 4–5. High SA at age 1.5 that persists over time deserves special attention, and may predict separation anxiety disorder. A host of child perinatal, parental and family-contextual risk factors were associated with the onset and developmental course of SA across the preschool years.
    Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 04/2015; DOI:10.1111/jcpp.12419 · 6.46 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Silences of the Archives, the Reknown of the Story. The Martin Guerre affair has been told many times since Jean de Coras and Guillaume Lesueur published their stories in 1561. It is in many ways a perfect intrigue with uncanny resemblance, persuasive deception and a surprizing end when the two Martin stood face to face, memory to memory, before captivated judges and a guilty feeling Bertrande de Rols. The historian wanted to go beyond the known story in order to discover the world of the heroes. This research led to disappointments and surprizes as documents were discovered concerning the environment of Artigat’s inhabitants and bearing directly on the main characters thanks to notarial contracts. Along the way, study of the works of Coras and Lesueur took a new direction. Coming back to the affair a quarter century later did not result in finding new documents (some are perhaps still buried in Spanish archives), but by going back over her tracks, the historian could only be struck by the silences of the archives that refuse to reveal their secrets and, at the same time, by the possible openings they suggest, by the intuition that almost invisible threads link here and there characters and events.
    Journal of Aggression 04/2015; 7(2):112-123. DOI:10.1108/JACPR-05-2014-0123
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    ABSTRACT: This study aims to document the prevalence of repeated patterns of dating victimization and to examine, within the frameworks of an ecological model and lifestyle/routine activities theories, associations between such patterns and family, peer, and individual factors. Dating victimization in adolescence (age 15) and early adulthood (age 21) was evaluated in 443 female participants. Multinomial logistic regression analyses revealed that history of family violence, childhood behavior problems, and adolescent high-risk behaviors were associated with an increased risk for girls of being victimized (psychologically and/or physically/sexually) in their dating relationships, either in adolescence or early adulthood, or at both developmental periods. © The Author(s) 2015.
    Violence Against Women 04/2015; 21(4):435-59. DOI:10.1177/1077801215570481 · 1.33 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

11k Citations
1,094.07 Total Impact Points


  • 1995-2015
    • McGill University
      • Department of Psychology
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  • 1994-2015
    • Université du Québec à Montréal
      • • Department of Psychology
      • • Department of Sexology
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  • 1991-2015
    • Université de Montréal
      • School of Psycho-Education
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  • 2011
    • CHU Sainte-Justine
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  • 1999-2010
    • Laval University
      • School of Psychology
      Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  • 2006-2007
    • VU University Amsterdam
      • Department of Developmental Psychology
      Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 1988-2007
    • Université du Québec
      Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  • 2005
    • The University of Winnipeg
      • Department of Economics
      Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  • 2000-2001
    • Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal
      • Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
    • University of Jyväskylä
      • Department of Psychology
      Jyväskylä, Province of Western Finland, Finland
  • 1989
    • University of Hull
      Kingston upon Hull, England, United Kingdom