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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 theGroup Processes and Social Inclusiontheme. 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. We also collaborate with our School colleagues in theAffective, Behavioural & Cognitive NeuroscienceandPsychological Health, Wellbeing & Resiliencethemes, 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 contact them for further information. 

Core Faculty

(opens in a new window)(opens in a new window)Assoc. Prof. Paul D’Alton

(opens in a new window)(opens in a new window)Prof. Eilis Hennessy (Co-Director of theYouth Mental Health Lab)

(opens in a new window)(opens in a new window)Assoc. Prof. Christine Linehan (Director of theUCD Centre for Disability Studies)

(opens in a new window)(opens in a new window)Assoc. Prof. Michael O’Connell

(opens in a new window)(opens in a new window)Assoc. Prof.Cliódhna O’Connor (Director of the(opens in a new window)Classification & Attribution Lab)

(opens in a new window)(opens in a new window) Assoc. Prof. Laura K. Taylor (Director of the(opens in a new window)(opens in a new window) 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.

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. (opens in a new window)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. (opens in a new window)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. (opens in a new window)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/(opens in a new window)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). (opens in a new window)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/(opens in a new window)10.1016/j.intell.2020.101511

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

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.

(opens in a new window)Prevalence and Experience of Diagnostic Shifts in Youth Mental Healthcare (PAEDS)  

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. (opens in a new window)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. (opens in a new window)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: Irish Research Council

GENERATION PEACE is an interdisciplinary, multilevel project with three goals. First, to identify which factors and conditions predict youth peacebuilding, or persistent prosocial action ranging from helping outgroup members to participation in nonviolent social movements. Second, to assess the long-term, generational impact of youth peacebuilding across the globe. Third, the project’s unique analytical approach integrates interdisciplinary frameworks from developmental psychology and peacebuilding, which will ultimately be synthesised into a comprehensive model of youth peacebuilding.

(opens in a new window)Helping Kids! Promoting constructive intergroup relations

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. (opens in a new window)https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12377

Taylor, L. K., Merrilees, C. E., Goeke-Morey, M., Shirlow, P., & Cummings, E. M. (in press). Who is building peace? A latent class analysis of youth peacebuilders in a conflict-affected setting. Political Psychology.(opens in a new window)https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/pops.12977

Moran, D., Liu, V., & Taylor, L. K. (2024). Who, how, and when do children help? A systematic review of children's outgroup prosocial behaviorAdvances in Political Psychology, 45(s1), 119-155. (opens in a new window)https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/pops.12948

UCD Research Impact Award 2023
Promoting inclusive peacebuilding

UCD School of Psychology

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