Evan McCuish has a strong background in research collaboration
By Christine Palka
The School of Criminology’s newest faculty recruit, Assistant Professor Evan McCuish, joins the School with a strong background in research collaboration.
McCuish started out as an undergraduate student in the School inputting data for Professor Raymond Corrado’s established Incarcerated Serious and Violent Young Offenders Study. He continued to participate in the research study by taking on progressively more challenging roles throughout his MA and PhD studies.
His PhD dissertation, “Bringing Psychopathy into Research on Offending Trajectories: Understanding the Construct’s Role as a Barrier to Desistance” utilized the knowledge he gained from his work with Corrado.
The dissertation challenged traditional longitudinal studies in criminology by asserting that these studies were not well equipped to address questions concerning differences between chronic offenders and desisters primarily because they missed a key demographic – offending patterns of youth at the “deep end” of the criminal justice system.
“Marriage, parenthood, and employment are key turning points expected to initiate desistance from crime. For individuals with high symptoms of psychopathy, their responsivity to such turning points may be limited. For example, we would not expect the unempathic, uncaring, and self-centered individual to care about the well being of their partner or child. Thus, their ties to these individuals will not provide the ‘hooks for change’ needed to initiate the desistance process,” says McCuish of his research findings.
“This is not to suggest that treatment cannot be effective. Rather, for adolescents, because this is an age period characterized by developmental change, emphasis should be on treatment strategies that reduce the severity and functional impairment of psychopathy symptoms that may inhibit an individual from benefiting from positive turning points.”
McCuish will now expand on this research as co-principal investigator of the Incarcerated Serious and Violent Young Offenders Study.
The next stage of his research is to further investigate social, health and behavioural outcomes in adulthood to better explain and account for the variance in chronic, serious and violent offending. Specifically, McCuish wants to identify the positive turning points that lead to a behaviour change resulting in a slow down in the pattern of an individual’s offending.
McCuish also hopes to eventually meet in-person the adults he’s been studying. He wants to know if they are thriving in the community or if they are in a custody center because they have reoffended. Connecting with these individuals will provide more answers to what contributes to constructive behaviour change.
McCuish also integrates his research findings into course content to help give his students a better perspective on abstract, theoretical concepts. He finds it useful for students when he provides real-life examples from his interviews with offending youth to show the application of concepts taught in class.
“I find this type of research really exciting. I love bringing my experience doing interviews with the kids I’m studying into the classroom because I can share this excitement through applicable stories.
I can give specific examples of what an offender says about a crime he committed, and explain which theoretical experience applies to this kind of behaviour. This helps students to actually see that the theory really does apply. It’s not just something we have to study that’s written in textbooks, it’s helpful for people to understand why people are doing the things that they are,” says McCuish.
In addition to his work with the Incarcerated Serious and Violent Young Offenders Study, McCuish is collaborating on other research projects within the School.
He is working with with Corrado, Patrick Lussier from the University of Laval, and Jeff Mathesius, a PhD student in the School examining early behavioural problems of toddlers and infants, specifically deviant sexual behaviour.
The study investigates whether different sexual behaviour trajectories are associated with involvement in intrusive sexual behaviours as children age. The study aims to provide working practitioners and parents with key information in hopes of early prevention.
McCuish is also available to supervise students in the Honours Program and Graduate Program who are interested in his areas of research.
“I’m specifically looking for people with an interest in young offenders who have a strong theoretical and methodological background. The developmental life course perspective helps frame much of the work that I do. I’m very eager to hear from students interested in that perspective.”