Group Processes and Social Inclusion

Does youth peacebuilding work, and what family, cultural and national factors promote it? How does receiving a psychiatric diagnosis affect one’s identity, and what happens if that diagnosis later changes? How consistent is the self in online and offline environments? What is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers? How do children and adolescents experience stigma, and how can these experiences be measured and studied?

These are just some of the questions pursued by researchers in the Group Processes and Social Inclusion theme. Underpinning these diverse research programmes lies a common concern: how individuals’ life outcomes are shaped by social categories, which may be chosen or assigned based on their behaviour, bodies, or biographies. Using a range of innovative quantitative and qualitative methodologies, our research explores the relations between groups defined by gender, nationality, ethnicity, class, age, sexual orientation, criminality, disability, psychiatric diagnosis, and physical illness. Our objectives are twofold: (a) to explore the social psychological factors that contribute to the marginalisation of certain social categories, and (b) to examine how members of marginalised groups, in turn, shape those categories and the societies around them. Ultimately, we aim to promote social inclusion by confronting the social and psychological barriers that impede certain groups from fully and equally accessing their fair share of social, cultural, and economic resources.

Our team of faculty, research staff and postgraduate students works closely together to advance our shared aims. Our research activity greatly benefits from our internal Social Psychology Discussion Group, interdisciplinary connections, and collaborations with international networks of esteemed researchers. Within UCD, we engage in interdisciplinary collaborations across the University in service of UCD’s strategic research priorities Empowering Humanity and Building a Healthy World. We also collaborate with our School colleagues in the Affective, Behavioural & Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychological Health, Wellbeing & Resilience themes, with whom we explore the role of neurocognitive processes in intergroup relations, the social stigma surrounding mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions, and the repercussions of social exclusion for psychological health and wellbeing.

We welcome applications for PhD study in our thematic area. If you are interested in discussing the possibility of PhD supervision, please identify the faculty member who best suits your topic of interest and complete the Enquiry Form here. <link to>


Core Faculty

Assoc. Prof. Paul D’Alton

Prof. Eilis Hennessy (Co-Director of the Youth Mental Health Lab)

Assoc. Prof. Christine Linehan (Director of the UCD Centre for Disability Studies)

Assoc. Prof. Michael O’Connell

Dr. Cliódhna O’Connor (Director of the Classification & Attribution Lab)

Dr. Laura K. Taylor (Director of the Helping Kids! Lab)


Spotlight on Research

Below are some selected research projects that represent the diversity of work in our theme. For more information on the specific projects, feel free to contact the relevant researcher.


Prevalence and Experience of Diagnostic Shifts in Youth Mental Healthcare (PAEDS)  
Principal Investigator: Dr. Cliódhna O’Connor
Funder: European Commission
Being diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental or mental health disorder can have profound consequences for how young people see themselves and relate to others. For various reasons, some young people may have their original diagnosis changed as they move through mental health services. The PAEDS study set out to explore how frequently these diagnostic shifts happen and their social, emotional and practical repercussions for young people and their families. Results informed the development of free resources to help clinicians, young people and parents communicate and adapt to diagnostic shifts.

Key References:

O’Connor, C., & McNicholas, F. (2020). Lived experiences of diagnostic shifts in child and adolescent mental health contexts: a qualitative interview study with young people and parents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology48, 979-993.

O’Connor, C., Downs, J., Shetty, H., & McNicholas, F. (2020). Diagnostic trajectories in child and adolescent mental health services: exploring the prevalence and patterns of diagnostic adjustments in an electronic mental health case register. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry29, 1111-1123.


Helping Kids! Promoting constructive intergroup relations 
Principal Investigator: Dr. Laura K Taylor
Funders: British Academy, Society for Research in Child Development
Europe has always faced the challenge of identity. In the European Union’s (EU) formation, new mechanisms provided shared symbols and meaning for citizens, in large part, to promote peace in the region. Becoming part of the EU, and gaining access to those shared symbols, motivates many governments. This research investigates when and how children from majority/minority communities in conflict-affected societies (Croatia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and Republic of North Macedonia) learn about this shared European identity, and the implications of these identities for their prosocial and peacebuilding behaviours, and for the future of the European project. 

Key References:

Taylor, L.K. (2020). The Developmental Peacebuilding Model (DPM) of children’s prosocial behaviors in settings of intergroup conflict. Child Development Perspectives, 14(3), 127-134.

Taylor, L.K., Dautel, J., & Rylander, R. (2020). Symbols and labels: Children’s awareness of social categories in a divided society. Journal of Community Psychology, 48(5), 1512-1526.


COVID-19 IDD: A global survey exploring family members’ and paid staff’s perceptions of the impact of COVID-19 on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers.
Principal Investigator: Assoc. Prof. Christine Linehan
Funder: Health Research Board COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding Call
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities experience disparities in health status, healthcare access and healthcare utilisation. This disparity was highlighted early in the COVID-19 pandemic when discussions arose regarding the potential exclusion of this population to critical care based on their perceived physical frailty. To capture the experiences of this population and their caregivers during the pandemic, a global online survey was conducted in 18 countries. A total of 3,754 family members and disability support staff anonymously completed the survey identifying multiple areas of unmet need. This research was conducted under the auspices of the Comparative Policy and Practice Special Interest Group of IASSIDD, the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The UCD Centre for Disability Studies currently holds the chair of this special interest group and led this research.   

Key References:

Linehan, C., Araten-Bergam, T., Baumbusch, J., Beadle-Brown, J., Bigby, C., Birkbeck, G., Bradley, V., Brown, M., Bredewold, F., Chirwa, M., Cui, J., Gimenez, M. G., Gomiero, T., Kanova, S., Kroll, T., MacLachlan, M., Mirfin-Veitch, B., Narayan, J., Nearchou, F., Nolan, A., O’Donovan, M., Santos, F. H., Šiška, J., Stainton, T., Tideman, M., & Tossebro, J. (2020). COVID-19 IDD: A global survey exploring family members’ and paid staff’s perceptions of the impact of COVID-19 on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers. HRB Open Research3.


Socio-economic status and life outcomes
Principal Investigator: Assoc. Prof. Michael O’Connell
How influential is an individual’s socio-economic status (SES) in shaping life outcomes such as educational attainment and income? When is SES important, and when is it not? In what societies does it play a key role? Has its influence been overstated? How do cognitive ability and SES interact in shaping people’s lives?

Key References:

O'Connell, M. & Marks, G.N. (2021). Are the effects of intelligence on student achievement and well-being largely functions of family income and social class? Evidence from a longitudinal study of Irish adolescentsIntelligence, 84.

O'Connell, M. (2019). Is the impact of SES on educational performance overestimated? Evidence from the PISA surveyIntelligence, 75, 41-47.


Measuring mental health stigma in adolescence
Investigators: Prof. Eilis Hennessy, Dr. Niki Nearchou (UCD), Dr. Caroline Heary (NUI Galway), Dr. Lynn McKeague, (Winchester University), Dr. Claire O’Driscoll-Lawrie (HSE)
This project grew out of the researchers’ ongoing work to understand the expression and experience of mental health stigma in childhood and adolescence. A questionnaire was developed specifically to measure stigma in adolescence, drawing on extensive work on adolescents’ experiences and grounded in the tripartite theory of stigma. The Peer Mental Health Stigmatization Scale has two subscales measuring perceived public stigma and personal stigma. Since it was developed the measure has been modified to measure stigma towards depression, social anxiety disorder and other common mental health conditions and it has been validated with a wider age group of young people. 

Key References:

Nearchou, F., O'Driscoll, C., McKeague, L., Heary, C., & Hennessy, E. (2020). Psychometric properties of the Peer Mental Health Stigmatization Scale‐Revised in adolescents and young adults. Early Intervention in Psychiatry.

McKeague, L., Hennessy, E., O'Driscoll, C., & Heary, C. (2015). Peer Mental Health Stigmatization Scale: Psychometric properties of a questionnaire for children and adolescents. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 20(3), 163-170.