Tracy Vaillancourt

University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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Publications (136)253.22 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The co-occurring development of internalizing and externalizing problems were examined in an inception cohort of 392 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 3 who were assessed on four occasions. Results indicated that internalizing and externalizing problems were stable over time and highly comorbid. Joint trajectory analysis suggested that 13% of the sample followed a dual high-risk trajectory. High risk was not found to be associated with intellectual ability or autism spectrum disorder symptom severity but was linked to lower income and gender: more girls than boys were found in the high/stable internalizing problems trajectory. The results suggest that 1 in 4 preschoolers followed a trajectory of internalizing or externalizing problems (or a combination of the two) that could be characterized as clinically elevated.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2016 · Development and Psychopathology
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: To describe services received by preschool children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during the five-year period following their diagnosis. Method: An inception cohort of preschoolers diagnosed with ASD from Halifax (Nova Scotia), Montreal (Quebec), Hamilton (Ontario), Edmonton (Alberta) and Vancouver (British Columbia) were invited to participate. Parents/caregivers (n=414) described the services provided to their children at four time points: baseline (T1; within four months of diagnosis; mean age three years); six months later (T2); 12 months later (T3); and at school entry (T4). Data were first coded into 11 service types and subsequently combined into four broader categories (no services, behavioural, developmental and general) for analysis. Results: More than 80% of children at T1, and almost 95% at T4 received some type of service, with a significant number receiving >1 type of service at each assessment point. At T1, the most common service was developmental (eg, speech-language therapy). Subsequently, the most common services were a combination of behavioural and developmental (eg, intensive therapy based on applied behaviour analysis and speech-language therapy). Service provision varied across provinces and over time. Discussion: Although most preschool children with ASD residing in urban centres were able to access specialized services shortly after diagnosis, marked variation in services across provinces remains a concern.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Paediatrics & child health
  • John D Haltigan · Tracy Vaillancourt
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: To examine trajectories of adolescent borderline personality (BP) features in a normative-risk cohort (N = 566) of Canadian children assessed at ages 13, 14, 15 and 16 and childhood predictors of trajectory group membership assessed at ages 8, 10, 11 and 12. Method: Data were drawn from the McMaster Teen Study, an on-going study examining relations among bullying, mental health, and academic achievement. Participants and their parents completed a battery of mental health and peer relations questionnaires at each wave of the study. Academic competence was assessed at age 8 (grade 3). Latent class growth analysis, analysis of variance, and logistic regression were used to analyze the data. Results: Three distinct BP features trajectory groups were identified: elevated/rising, intermediate/stable, and low/stable. Parent- and child-reported mental health symptomatology, peer relations risk factors, and intra-individual risk factors were significant predictors of elevated/rising and intermediate/stable trajectory groups. Child-reported ADHD and somatization symptomatology uniquely predicted elevated/rising trajectory group membership, whereas parent-reported anxiety and child-reported ADHD symptomatology uniquely predicted intermediate/stable trajectory group membership. Child-reported somatization symptomatology was the only predictor to differentiate the intermediate/stable and elevated/rising trajectory groups (OR = 1.15, 95% CI [1.04-1.28]). Associations between child-reported reactive temperament and elevated BP features trajectory group membership were 10.23 times higher among children who were bullied, supporting a diathesis-stress pathway in the development of BP features for these youth. Conclusions: Findings demonstrate the heterogeneous course of BP features in early adolescence and shed light on the potential prodromal course of later borderline personality disorder (BPD).
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Canadian journal of psychiatry. Revue canadienne de psychiatrie
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    ABSTRACT: Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are diagnosed, on average, around the age of 4 years. However, previous research has shown that the diagnosis can be made as early as 2 years, and that if the child is seen a year or more later, it is highly likely that the diagnosis will be confirmed. In this study, to examine whether diagnoses made as early as 18 months of age are also "stable," we followed a group of younger siblings of children with ASD (who are known to be at higher risk). We also examined whether the age of ASD diagnosis within this high-risk group was related to the severity of children's ASD symptoms or developmental delays. Participants (n = 381) were seen at three ages: 18 months, 24 months, and 3 years. ASD symptoms, general development, and adaptive functioning were assessed at each time point. Twenty-three children were diagnosed with ASD at 18 months and a total of 61 at 24 months. Of these diagnoses, 19/23 (82.6%) and 56/61 (91.8%), respectively, were confirmed independently at 3 years. However, 45 children were diagnosed with ASD at 3 years who had not been identified at earlier visits. Children diagnosed at 18 months, in comparison to those diagnosed at 24 months, had less advanced language and adaptive skills at 18 months. Children not diagnosed with ASD until 3 years, compared with those diagnosed earlier, had more advanced language and adaptive skills, and milder ASD symptoms. Autism Res 2015. © 2015 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Autism Research
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    Anthony A. Volk · Andrew V. Dane · Zopito A. Marini · Tracy Vaillancourt
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    ABSTRACT: Traditionally believed to be the result of maladaptive development, bullying perpetration is increasingly being viewed as a potentially adaptive behavior. We were interested in determining whether adolescents who bully others enjoy a key evolutionary benefit: increased dating and mating (sexual) opportunities. This hypothesis was tested in two independent samples consisting of 334 adolescents and 144 university students. The data partly supported our prediction that bullying, but not victimization, would predict dating behavior. The data for sexual behavior more clearly supported our hypothesis that bullying behavior predicts an increase in sexual opportunities even when accounting for age, sex, and self-reports of attractiveness, likeability, and peer victimization. These results are generally congruent with the hypothesis that bullying perpetration is, at least in part, an evolutionary adaptive behavior.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Evolutionary Psychology
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    Weijun Wang · Heather Brittain · Patricia McDougall · Tracy Vaillancourt
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    ABSTRACT: The relative impact of school transition versus development on peer victimization and bullying perpetration were examined in a natural experiment involving 698 students where half transitioned into middle school from Grade 5 to Grade 6 and the other half remained in their elementary school over the same period. Results indicated that, on average, peer victimization decreased over the transition period while bullying perpetration remained stable for the whole sample. Multilevel modeling was used to investigate the effects of school transition and sex on changes in victimization and perpetration. Results indicated that the effect of transition status on changes in peer victimization was moderated by sex. Middle school transition status predicted decreases in peer victimization for girls, but not for boys, who transitioned. However, school transition status and participants' sex (and their interaction) did not predict changes in perpetration over time. Our findings indicate that changes in student involvement with peer victimization are better understood as a contextual rather than a typical developmental process, whereas bullying perpetration may be better understood as developmental.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Child abuse & neglect
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    ABSTRACT: Prevention programs yield modest reductions in bullying in North American schools. This study explored the perspective of educators regarding factors limiting the impact of these initiatives. Transcripts from nineteen 90-min focus groups with 103 educators were coded thematically. Educators felt that off-site incidents, cyberbullying, and the growing involvement of boys in psychologically aggressive incidents have increased the complexity of bullying. Curriculum demands limit time for training, implementation, and prompt responses to bullying. Principals failing to back teachers up, ambivalent colleagues, uncooperative parents, and a lack of evidence reduce their commitment to implementation. Promising programs are discontinued in favor of new initiatives. Some educators modified programs; others, feeling frustrated and discouraged, struggled to mobilize the enthusiasm needed to ensure successful implementation. Dealing with bullying in the face of limited time, training, and support may increase emotional exhaustion and compromise program effectiveness.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Journal of School Violence
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    ABSTRACT: Despite the fact that children born very preterm or earlier, or at a very low birth weight (VLBW; < 1500 g) or smaller manifest elevated rates of a number of risk factors that put them at increased risk for peer victimization (e.g., poor motor abilities, lower IQ, and higher anxiety and depression), relatively little is known about the prevalence, predictors, and long-term outcomes of exposure to bullying in this population. Here we review the seven known studies published to date that have investigated peer victimization in those born very preterm or earlier or VLBW or smaller. The majority of these studies have found that these children are at an increased risk of being bullied by peers. Possible risk factors include poorer cognitive functioning, psychiatric disorders, motor difficulties, and functional limitations. However, this field is limited by the use of sub-optimal measures of peer victimization, small sample sizes, and a lack of longitudinal studies. Future research needs to examine the prevalence of bullying and the long-term risks associated with being bullied in those born VLBW and smaller. Regardless of the methodological limitations, parents and teachers should be aware that individuals born VLBW and smaller may be at a higher risk for being bullied.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Aggression and Violent Behavior
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    Irene Vitoroulis · Heather Brittain · Tracy Vaillancourt
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    ABSTRACT: Bullying in ethnically diverse schools varies as a function of the ethnic composition and degree of diversity in schools. Although Canada is highly multicultural, few researchers have focused on the role of context on ethnic majority and minority youths’ bullying involvement. In the present study, 11,649 European-Canadian/ethnic majority (77%) and non-European Canadian/ethnic minority (23%) students in Grade 4 to Grade 12 completed an online Safe Schools Survey on general, physical, verbal, social, and cyber bullying. Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) analyses indicated significant interactions between the proportion of non-European Canadian children in a school (Level 2) and individual ethnicity (Level 1) across most types of bullying victimization. Non-European Canadian students experienced less peer victimization in schools with higher proportions of non-European Canadian students, but ethnic composition was not related to European Canadian students’ peer victimization. No differences in bullying perpetration were found as a function of school ethnic composition across groups. Our findings suggest that ethnic composition in Canadian schools may not be strongly associated with bullying perpetration and that a higher representation of other ethnic minority peers may act as a buffer against peer victimization.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · International Journal of Behavioral Development
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    Steven Arnocky · Marlena Pearson · Tracy Vaillancourt
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    ABSTRACT: Health has been identified as an important variable involved in mate choice. Unhealthy organisms are generally less able to provide reproductively important resources to partners and offspring and are more likely to pass on communicable disease. Research on human mate preferences has shown that both men and women prefer healthy mates. Yet to date, little research has examined how health relates to one's own mating experiences. In the present study, 164 participants (87 women) who were currently in heterosexual romantic relationships completed measures of frequency and severity of health problems, anticipated partner infidelity, and intensity of jealousy felt in their current relationship. Mediation analyses showed that health problems predicted greater anticipated partner infidelity and jealousy scores and that anticipated partner infidelity mediated the links between health and jealousy for both frequency and severity of health problems, controlling for both sex and relationship duration. These findings suggest that unhealthy people perceive themselves to be at a mating disadvantage, experiencing associated differences in perceptions and emotions surrounding their romantic partners' fidelity.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Evolutionary Psychology
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    ABSTRACT: Temperament was investigated in a group of high-risk infants (N = 383; 45 % girls) who had an older sibling with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and in community control infants (N = 162; 46 % girls) with no family history of ASD (low-risk). The infants were assessed at age 12 months using the Infant Behavior Questionnaire, and at 24 months using the Toddler Behavior Assessment Questionnaire. At 36 months, an independent blind diagnostic assessment for ASD was conducted using the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). The results indicate not only differences in temperament traits between the high- and low-risk groups, but also differences in the structure of higher-order temperament factors. The results support the importance of early reactive temperament in the development of Effortful Control in the high-risk sample. Furthermore, Effortful Control at 24 months appears to play a critical role in predicting later ASD symptoms (at 36 months). Taken together, these findings support the use of early temperament as an endophenotype for ASD.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology
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    Noriyeh Rahbari · Tracy Vaillancourt
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Canadian Journal of School Psychology 1–18 © 2015 SAGE Publications Reprints and permissions: DOI: 10.1177/0829573515594610 Executive functions (EFs) and intelligence were examined concurrently and longitudinally in 126 preschool children. EF was assessed using the Flexible Item Selection Task (FIST) and the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function– Preschool Version (BRIEF-P). Children’s intelligence was assessed using the Verbal and Performance subtests from Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence– Third Edition (WPPSI-III). Results showed a significant association between verbal and nonverbal intelligence with both the FIST and the BRIEF-P. The BRIEF-P working memory scale showed the strongest relation with EF and intelligence at both time points. Results are discussed in terms of differential association between intelligence and components of EF.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Canadian Journal of School Psychology
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    Steven Arnocky · Shafik Sunderani · Wendy Gomes · Tracy Vaillancourt
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    ABSTRACT: Anxiety is believed to have evolved, in part, as a signal of threats to survival or reproductive fitness. In a sample of 66 heterosexual undergraduate men who were currently in exclusive romantic relationships, we explored whether symptoms of anxiety mediated links between anticipated partner infidelity and men's intimate partner violence. Results indicated that symptoms of anxiety mediated relationships between anticipated partner infidelity and physical aggression, partner injury, psychological aggression, and sexual aggression toward a partner. Results are discussed in terms of the evolution of anxiety as an emotion that mediates reaction to adaptive threats.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015
  • Patricia McDougall · Tracy Vaillancourt
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    ABSTRACT: The study of peer victimization has drawn together researchers, parents, teachers, and health professionals around the world in an effort to make change. Research attention has focused on the question of whether peer victimization in childhood and adolescence leads to lasting and serious negative ramifications in the lives of young people. We consider the wealth of information documenting the troubling adjustment that follows peer victimization within childhood and adolescence. Findings from prospective studies tracking children and adolescents into young adulthood are presented and synthesized. Using the construct of "multifinality" as our framework, we explore why it might be that early peer victimization does not have the same impact on all young people by considering factors that place individuals at greater risk or appear to protect them from more lasting harm. In addition to a need for carefully planned prospective studies, the field would benefit from the use of qualitative studies aimed at elucidating possible causal, concurrent, and resultant mechanisms involved with victimization. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · American Psychologist
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    ABSTRACT: Extremely low birth weight (ELBW; <1000 g) children may be at risk for experiencing peer victimization. We examined retrospectively reported peer victimization in ELBW and control children in the oldest known, prospectively followed, population-based birth cohort of ELBW survivors. We compared levels of verbal and physical peer victimization in ELBW and control children. We also predicted peer victimization in the ELBW sample from child characteristics. ELBW children, especially girls, were at an increased risk for verbal, but not physical victimization. In addition, ELBW children with a higher IQ reported higher levels of verbal victimization, although ELBW females who had a lower body mass index in childhood reported higher levels of physical victimization. Findings highlight the need for parents and clinicians to be aware that ELBW girls, especially those with a lower body mass index in childhood, may be at increased risk of peer victimization, as are ELBW children with a higher IQ. © The Author(s) 2015.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2015 · Clinical Pediatrics
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    ABSTRACT: We examined the stability of cognitive and adaptive behaviour standard scores in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) between diagnosis and school entry approximately age 6. IQ increased 18 points in 2-year-olds, 12 points in 3-year-olds, and 9 points in 4-year-olds (N = 281). Adaptive behaviour scores increased 4 points across age groups (N = 289). At school entry, 24 % of children met criteria for intellectual disability (cognitive and adaptive behaviour scores <70). No children with both scores ≥70 at diagnosis later met criteria for intellectual disability. Outcomes were more variable for children with initial delays in both areas (in 57 %, both scores remained <70). Findings are relevant to clinical decision-making, including specification of intellectual disability in young children with ASD.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2015 · Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
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    ABSTRACT: This prospective study characterized parents' concerns about infants at high risk for developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD; each with an older sibling with ASD) at multiple time points in the first 2 years, and assessed their relation to diagnostic outcome at 3 years. Parents of low-risk controls (LR) and high-risk infant siblings (HR) reported any concerns that they had regarding their children's development between 6 and 24 months of age regarding sleep, diet, sensory behavior, gross/fine motor skills, repetitive movements, communication, communication regression, social skills, play, and behavioral problems, using a parent concern form designed for this study. At 3 years of age, an independent, gold-standard diagnostic assessment for ASD was conducted for all participants. As predicted, parents of HR children who received an ASD diagnosis reported more concerns than parents of LR and HR children who did not have ASD. The total number of concerns predicted a subsequent diagnosis of ASD as early as 12 months within the HR group. Concerns regarding sensory behavior and motor development predicted a subsequent diagnosis of ASD as early as 6 months, whereas concerns about social communication and repetitive behaviors did not predict diagnosis of ASD until after 12 months. Parent-reported concerns can improve earlier recognition of ASD in HR children. Copyright © 2015 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
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    ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVE : The factor structure and validity of the Behavioral Pediatrics Feeding Assessment Scale (BPFAS; Crist & Napier-Phillips, 2001) were examined in preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). METHODS : Confirmatory factor analysis was used to examine the original BPFAS five-factor model, the fit of each latent variable, and a rival one-factor model. None of the models was adequate, thus a categorical exploratory factor analysis (CEFA) was conducted. Correlations were used to examine relations between the BPFAS and concurrent variables of interest. RESULTS : The CEFA identified an acceptable three-factor model. Correlational analyses indicated that feeding problems were positively related to parent-reported autism symptoms, behavior problems, sleep problems, and parenting stress, but largely unrelated to performance-based indices of autism symptom severity, language, and cognitive abilities, as well as child age. CONCLUSION : These results provide evidence supporting the use of the identified BPFAS three-factor model for samples of young children with ASD. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Pediatric Psychology. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Journal of Pediatric Psychology
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    ABSTRACT: Symptom severity and adaptive functioning are fundamental domains of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) phenotype. To date, the longitudinal association between these 2 domains has not been examined. To describe the developmental trajectories of autistic symptom severity and adaptive functioning in a large inception cohort of preschool children with ASD. The sample consisted of 421 newly diagnosed preschool children with ASD 2 to 4 years old (355 boys; mean age at study enrollment, 39.87 months) participating in a large Canadian multisite longitudinal study (Pathways in ASD Study). Prospective data collected at 4 points from time of diagnosis to age 6 years were used to track the developmental trajectories of children. Autistic symptom severity was indexed using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. Adaptive functioning was indexed using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Second Edition. Two distinct trajectory groups provided the best fit to the autistic symptom severity data. Group 1 (11.4% of the sample) had less severe symptoms and an improving trajectory (P < .05), whereas group 2 (88.6% of the sample) had more severe symptoms and a stable trajectory. Three distinct trajectory groups provided the best fit to the adaptive functioning data. Group 1 (29.2% of the sample) showed lower functioning and a worsening trajectory, group 2 (49.9% of the sample) had moderate functioning and a stable trajectory, and group 3 (20.9% of the sample) had higher functioning and an improving trajectory (P < .05). Cross-trajectory overlap between the autistic symptom severity and adaptive functioning groups was low (φ = 0.13, P < .05). Sex was a significant predictor of autistic symptom severity group membership and age at diagnosis, and language and cognitive scores at baseline predicted membership in adaptive functioning trajectories. Trajectories of both symptom severity and adaptive functioning predicted several different outcomes at age 6 years. Findings confirm the heterogeneous nature of developmental trajectories in ASD. Change in adaptive functioning suggests that improvement is possible in roughly 20% of the sample. Autistic symptom severity appears to be more stable, with roughly 11% of the sample showing a marked decrease in symptom severity. During the preschool years, there appears to be only a small amount of "yoking" of developmental trajectories in autistic symptom severity and adaptive functioning. It is imperative that a flexible suite of interventions that target both autistic symptom severity and adaptive functioning should be implemented and tailored to each child's strengths and difficulties.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · JAMA Psychiatry
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Differences in how developmental pathways interact dynamically in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) likely contribute in important ways to phenotypic heterogeneity. This study aimed to model longitudinal reciprocal associations between social competence (SOC) and language (LANG) pathways in young children with ASD. Methods: Data were obtained from 365 participants aged 2-4 years who had recently been diagnosed with an ASD and who were followed over three time points: baseline (time of diagnosis), 6- and 12 months later. Using structural equation modeling, a cross-lagged reciprocal effects model was developed that incorporated auto-regressive (stability) paths for SOC (using the Socialization subscale of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales-2) and LANG (using the Preschool Language Scale-4 Auditory Comprehension subscale). Cross-domain associations included within-time correlations and lagged associations. Results: SOC and LANG were highly stable over 12 months. Small reciprocal cross-lagged associations were found across most time points and within-time correlations decreased over time. There were no differences in strength of cross-lagged associations between SOC-LANG and LANG-SOC across time points. Few differences were found between subgroups of children with ASD with and without cognitive impairment. Conclusions: Longitudinal reciprocal cross-domain associations between social competence and language were small in this sample of young children with ASD. Instead, a pattern emerged to suggest that the two domains were strongly associated around time of diagnosis in preschoolers with ASD, and then appeared to become more independent over the ensuing 12 months.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Publication Stats

2k Citations
253.22 Total Impact Points


  • 2009-2016
    • University of Ottawa
      • School of Psychology
      Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • 2015
    • Nipissing University
      • Department of Psychology
      YYB, Ontario, Canada
    • Simon Fraser University
      • Faculty of Health Sciences
      Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2003-2013
    • McMaster University
      • • Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences
      • • Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour
      • • Department of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behavior
      Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • 2007
    • Université de Montréal
      • School of Psycho-Education
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada