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Group Processes and Social Inclusion

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

Core Faculty

Dr Islam Borinca

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

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

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

Postdoctoral Researchers

Vivian Liu

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.

(Mis)understanding out-group prosocial behaviors 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Islam Borinca
Funder: Swiss National Science Foundation - NCCR on the Move & Bourses D’excellence de la Confédération Suisse

There is a tendency for individuals to misunderstand prosocial behaviors enacted by members of other ethnic or national groups. This misunderstanding usually occurs because of a high level of prejudice, intolerant social norms and context, meta-dehumanization, and distrust in relation to out-group members. By examining different intergroup settings (Kosovo-Albanians, Kosovo-Serbs, North Macedonians, Italians, Swiss, and U.S. Americans), this research illustrates how people can come together and therefore appreciate the prosocial efforts of outgroup members.

Key References:

Borinca, I., Falomir-Pichastor, J. M., Andrighetto, L., & Durante, F. (2021). Outgroup prejudice and perceptions of pro-social intergroup behaviors. European Journal of Social Psychology, 51(1), 40-53.

Borinca, I., Falomir-Pichastor, J. M., & Andrighetto, L. (2020). “How can you help me if you are not from here?” Helper's familiarity with the context shapes interpretations of pro-social intergroup behaviors. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 87, 103944.

Helping parents support youth mental health 

Principal investigator: Professor Eilis Hennessy
Funders: Health Research Board; National Office for Suicide Prevention


Parents are central to the lives of most young people, and they have critical supporting roles to play when young people experience mental health difficulties. However, within the literature of psychology and psychiatry, parents have frequently been seen as lacking understanding of youth mental health and potentially sustaining problems or triggering relapses. This perspective has fostered stigma and shame for some young people and their families, and may delay seeking help in a timely way. An alternative perspective considers family support as paramount in improving outcomes for the young person and their family.
Two research projects led by Professor Hennessy and carried out with her colleagues in UCD, University of Galway and Pieta have focused on developing our understanding of parents’ experiences of supporting a young person with a mental health difficulty, and the challenges of seeking professional support.  The research has highlighted some of the challenges that parents face both in identifying the need for professional intervention and in accessing that support when needed.  One of the projects focused specifically on self-harm and a co-design project is now underway to develop an online resource for parents based on the findings of that research.
UCD Research Impact Award 2023
Helping parents support youth mental health

Key references:

Hennessy, E., Gaynor, K., Nearchou, F., French, A., Raftery, S., Dolan, S., O’Dwyer, B. (2022). A blueprint for providing resources to parents of adolescents who self-harm. http://hdl.handle.net/10197/13131

McKeague, L., Hennessy, E., O’Driscoll-Lawrie, C., & Heary, C. (2022). Parenting an adolescent who is using a mental health service: A qualitative study on perceptions and management of stigma. Journal of Family Issues, 43(9), 2317-2338. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X211030924

Murphy, D., Heary, C., Hennessy, M., O'Reilly, M. D., & Hennessy, E. (2022). A systematic review of help-seeking interventions for parents of adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 70(1), 16-27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.07.004

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. https://doi.org/10.12688/hrbopenres.13077.2

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2020.101511

O'Connell, M. (2019). Is the impact of SES on educational performance overestimated? Evidence from the PISA surveyIntelligence, 75, 41-47. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2019.04.005

Prevalence and Experience of Diagnostic Shifts in Youth Mental Healthcare (PAEDS)  

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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-020-00657-0

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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-019-01428-z

Helping Kids! Promoting constructive intergroup relations

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. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12377

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. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22344

UCD Research Impact Award 2023
Promoting inclusive peacebuilding

UCD School of Psychology

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