Doug Symons, Professor (retired)

Please note: Dr. Symons is no longer accepting honours students or graduate students.

Email address:


B.Sc., McMaster University

M.A., University of Western Ontario

Ph.D., University of Western Ontario

Clinical Internship (APA Accredited)


Doug Symons is a Professor of Psychology (retired) with general research interests in early social development and topics in child-clinical. More specifically, mother-infant interactions and attachment theory, social understanding, quantitative methods in sequential analyses, and adjustment of children with learning disabilities have been the focus of recent research. Dr. Symons has received numerous SSHRC grants to support his research.

Most recently, Dr. Symons has been involved in an attachment-informed home-based intervention for high-risk families, most with child protection concerns.  This project targets 2 to 7-year-old children and addresses parent-child attachment, adult attachment, parental mental health and trauma history, and child adjustment.  Details of this project can be found at   


Symons, D.K., Adams, S., & Smith, K.H.  (2016).  Adult attachment style and caregiver attitudes after raising a virtual child.  Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 33, 1054-1069.

Symons, D. K., & Tarabulsy, G. M.  (2016).  Attachment theory and developmental psychology.  Editors of Special Issue of Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 48, Issue 1.

Tarabulsy, G. M., & Symons, D. K.  (2016).  Attachment theory and developmental psychology: Canadian contributions and introduction to the special issue.  Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 48, 1-8.

Brown, O.K., & Symons, D.K.  (2016).  “My pet has passed”:  Relations of adult attachment styles and current feelings of grief and trauma after the event.  Death Studies, 40, 247-255.

Symons, D.K., & Smith, K.H.  (2014).  Evidence of psychological engagement when raising a virtual child.  Psychology Learning & Teaching, 13, 52-57.    

Gendron, M., & Symons, D.K.  (2014).  Talking about health events.  Lambert Academic Publishing: Saarbrücken, Germany.  (ISBN 978-3-659-46372-3).

Szielasko, A.L., Symons, D.K., & Price, E.L.  (2013).  Development of an attachment-informed measure of sexual behavior in late adolescence.  Journal of Adolescence, 36, 361-370.

Symons, D.K.  (2011).  The h-index, graduate student applicants, and comparing rankings:   A critique of Carleton et al. (2010).  Canadian Psychology, 52, 52-56.

Symons, D.K., et al. (2011).   Mental state language use and elaborative discourse during experimentally-controlled and naturalistic book-reading interactions are related to adult attachment orientation   in preparation. 

Symons, D.K.  (2010).  A review of the practice and science of child custody and access assessment in the USA and Canada.  Professional Psychology:  Research and Practice, 41, 267-273.

Clark, S., & Symons, D.K.  (2009).  Representations of attachment relationships, the self, and significant others in 5 to 9 year-old children.   Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 18, 316-321.

Symons, D.K., & Szielasko, A.L.  (2009).  Attachment styles within sexual relationships are strategic. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32, 42-43. 

Szielasko, A.., Symons, D., & Boutilier, J.  (2008).  Juvenile sex offending within an attachment framework.  The Proceedings of the 2007 North American Correctional and Criminal Justice Psychology Conference, Public Safety Canada, 137-141.   

Walsh,T.M., McGrath, P.J., & Symons, D.K.  (2008).  Attachment dimensions and young children's response to pain.  Acute Pain, 10, 107.

Walsh,T.M., McGrath, P.J., & Symons, D.K.  (2008).  Attachment dimensions and young children's response to pain.  Pain Research and Management, 13, 33–40.

Symons, D.K., Fossum, K., & Collins, T.B.K.  (2006).  A longitudinal study of belief and desire state discourse during mother – child play and later false belief understanding.  Social Development, 15, 676-691.

Moore, C., & Symons, D. (2005). Attachment, theory of mind, and delay of gratification. In B. Homer & C. Tamis-LeMonda (Eds.), The Development of Social Cognition and Communication (pp. 181-199). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Symons, D.K., Peterson, C.C., Slaughter, V., Roche, J., & Doyle, E. (2005). Theory of mind and mental state discourse during book reading and story-telling tasks. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 23, 81-102.

Symons, D.K. (2004). The internalization of mental state discourse contributes to social understanding. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27, 125-126.

McGee, R., Brodeur, D., Symons, D., Andrade, B., & Fahie, C. (2004) Time perception: does it distinguish between ADHD and RD children in a clinical sample? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32, 481-490.

Symons, D. (2004). Mental state discourse and theory of mind: Internalization of self – other understanding within a social – cognitive framework. Developmental Review, 24, 159-188.

Walsh, T., Symons, D., & McGrath, P. (2004). Relations between young children's responses to the depiction of separation and pain experiences. Attachment and Human Development, 6, 53-71.

Fahie, C., & Symons, D. (2003). Executive functioning and theory of mind in children clinically-referred for attention and behavior Problems. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 24, 51-73.

Symons, S., & Symons, D. (2002). Using the Inter- and Intranet in a University Introductory Psychology Course to Promote Active Learning. Computers in Education, 2002(2), 844-845. [Proceedings of the International Conference on Computers in Education, Aukland New Zealand, IEEE Computer Society Press].

Symons, D.K. (2001). A dyad-oriented approach to distress and mother-child relationship outcomes in the first 24 months. Parenting: Science and Practice, 1, 101-122.


Honours Students

Sarah A. Hutchins, B.Sc. Thesis (2017).  Adult attachment style and caregiver attitudes before and after raising a virtual child:  Is avoidance related to negative attitudes?  

Chantal LeBlanc, B.A. Thesis  (2016).  Quality of parent-child relationships:  Childhood attachment and emotional availability in high psycho-social risk dyads. 

Olivia Brown, B.Sc. Thesis  (2015).  An examination of loss:  Retrospective attachment styles to a pet who has passed and current feelings of grief and trauma over the event.  

Marissa West, B.Sc. Thesis (2015).  Parent-child relationships, emotional availability, and adult attachment representations in a high psychosocial risk sample.     

Graduate Students

Jackie Meisner, M.Sc. Thesis (2017).  Relations of adult attachment using the Adult Attachment Projective Picture System, maltreatment history, depression, and childhood behavior problems in a high-risk sample. 

Kathleen H. Smith, M.Sc. Thesis  (2015).  Fostering healthy relationships in families with maltreatment histories:  An attachment-based intervention and relationships between parenting indices.