The Child and Family Research Centre (Scholarly Articles)

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  • Publication
    Empathy rules, maps and paths: A qualitative exploration of the factors that facilitate or inhibit empathy and prosocial responding among youth
    (Wiley, 2023-08-25) Silke, Charlotte; Brady, Bernadine; Dolan, Pat; Boylan, Ciara
    The aim of this study is to explore young people's perspectives on the factors that facilitate or inhibit empathy and prosocial responding among youth. Qualitative focus groups (n = 29) were undertaken with Irish young people aged 13–17 years relating to their views on the factors that facilitate or inhibit the expression of empathy. Parents, friends, and social media were found to be key influences, whereas barriers identified included societal norms, gender norms, lack of skill, or knowledge and target characteristics. This research provides important insights into adolescents’ perceptions of the social correlates of empathy. Concepts from the sociology of empathy, such as empathy maps and paths, are helpful in drawing out the implications for future research and practice.
  • Publication
    Communication to promote and support physical distancing for COVID‐19 prevention and control
    (Cochrane Collaboration, 2023-10-09) Ryan, Rebecca E.; Silke, Charlotte; Parkhill, Anne; Virgona, Ariane; Merner, Bronwen; Hurley, Shauna; Walsh, Louisa; de Moel-Mandel, Caroline; Schonfeld, Lina; Edwards, Adrian GK.; Kaufman, Jessica; Cooper, Alison; Kar Yee Chung, Rachel; Solo, Karla; Hellard, Margaret; Di Tanna, Gian Luca; Pedrana, Alisa; Saich, Freya; Hill, Sophie
    This review is an update of a rapid review undertaken in 2020 to identify relevant, feasible and effective communication approaches to promote acceptance, uptake and adherence to physical distancing measures for COVID‐19 prevention and control. The rapid review was published when little was known about transmission, treatment or future vaccination, and when physical distancing measures (isolation, quarantine, contact tracing, crowd avoidance, work and school measures) were the cornerstone of public health responses globally. This updated review includes more recent evidence to extend what we know about effective pandemic public health communication. This includes considerations of changes needed over time to maintain responsiveness to pandemic transmission waves, the (in)equities and variable needs of groups within communities due to the pandemic, and highlights again the critical role of effective communication as integral to the public health response.
  • Publication
    Activating social empathy: An evaluation of a school-based social and emotional learning programme
    (Elsevier, 2024-01-06) Silke, Charlotte; Davitt, Emer; Flynn, Niamh; Shaw, Aileen; Brady, Bernadine; Murray, Clíona; Dolan, Pat; Galway University Foundation
    Previous evidence suggests that empathy is important for promoting positive youth development, and there is growing advocacy for the inclusion of empathy education within the school system. However, knowledge about the efficacy of empathy-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programmes in post-primary school settings is limited. The current research aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a novel, empathy-based SEL programme (i.e., Activating Social Empathy; ASE) in promoting empathy and prosocial responding among secondary school students in Ireland.
  • Publication
    Designing futures through student engagement: A policy futures perspective
    (SAGE Publications, 2023-06-12) Hall, Tony; Millar, Michelle; O’Regan, Connie
    Futures research is gaining increased prominence in educational research and development (Tesar, 2021), and particularly now as we emerge from the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has provided a lever for change and an opportunity for innovation in learning, teaching and assessment (Hall et al., 2022; Jandri¿ et al., 2022). Designing Futures (DF) is an initiative that aims to transform the student learning experience at university, including through promoting student entrepreneurship and enhanced interaction with enterprise, industry and the innovation sector, supported by a national employability policy agenda, and concomitant, significant government funding. Ireland¿s Higher Education Authority has invested ¿7.57m in the DF programme at University of Galway for a period of five years, 2020-2025. However, introducing such a programme as DF within higher education raises problematic tensions around the purpose of higher education today, as set amidst the current policy futures perspective. Specifically, how do we balance policy imperatives to work more closely with enterprise and industry, while at the same time protecting the essential role of higher education, which must be to provide a formative context for all students to reach their fullest potential as active citizens? This paper helps to position the concept of student engagement, taking DF as an exemplar initiative, and examining the concept as it is construed and deployed in an innovative, futures-oriented educational programme. This review is critical for DF, to ensure we remain fundamentally focused on education, and not just for the world of work, which is of course important, but beyond enterprise and industry: to ensure students¿ readiness for the complex and challenging world of today, and tomorrow. Furthermore, this constitutes an important contribution to the literature, at a time when the identity of the university and purpose of higher education are the focus of an educationally problematic neo-liberal agenda (Mintz, 2021).
  • Publication
    Children’s perceptions of the skills needed to ‘fit in’ when starting school
    (Melbourne Graduate School of Education, 2019) Hanniffy, Máire; Millar, Michelle
    Children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are at an increased risk of experiencing lower levels of school readiness. Ready children are children who can navigate both the social and academic tasks and challenges of school (Brostrom, 2003). This paper focuses on children¿s transition to school in low socioeconomic areas. Qualitative findings from 88 children who took part in the research using the `Draw and Tell¿ technique (Driessnack, 2005) are explored. The children in this research identified the use of social, emotional and language skills to make friends, and to engage with educators and learning opportunities. In addition to highlighting these skills, the children explained the importance of being physically independent in the school environment. The children¿s perspectives in low socioeconomic complement existing research, and the insider perspective provided by the children furthers understandings of `Ready Children¿
  • Publication
    Culture and parenting: Polish migrant parents’ perspectives on how culture shapes their parenting in a culturally diverse Irish neighbourhood
    (Taylor and Francis, 2023-05-26) Kealy, Carmen; Devaney, Carmel; Hardiman Research Scholarship, University of Galway
    While it is now widely acknowledged that child-rearing practices vary culturally, there has been little research or consideration on how cultural difference is experienced by Polish immigrant parents in Ireland. This paper reflects on how culture is experienced by migrant parents and shapes Polish migrant parenting in the Irish context. It draws on findings from a qualitative study which elicited Polish migrant parents¿ perspectives on the norms that shape parenting and their parental experiences, while residing in a culturally diverse neighbourhood in Ireland. Findings highlight that no single theoretical framework accurately captures Polish migrant parenting, which is a complex, multidimensional and dynamic phenomenon. Instead, insight is required into migration experiences, the influence of childhood, family relationships and obligations, as well as employment and parenting styles, all of which are underpinned by specific cultural norms and values, to better understand parental challenges in the adaptation to their post migration environment.
  • Publication
    Youth suicide and self-harm: Latent class profiles of adversity and the moderating roles of perceived support and sense of safety
    (Springer, 2023-03-24) Silke, Charlotte; Brady, Bernadine; Devaney, Carmel; O’Brien, Cliodhna; Durcan, Micheal; Bunting, Brendan; Heary, Caroline; Health Research Board
    Research suggests that exposure to adversity can lead to an increased risk of experiencing suicidal and self-injurious thoughts or behaviours, but few studies have examined whether different patterns of adversity are differentially associated with youth suicide/self-harm. The current study aims to explore the relationship between exposure to adversity across various social domains and youth self-harm and suicidality, using a person centred approach, and examines whether access to social support and a sense of safety across home, peer or school settings buffer the relationship between adversity and self-harm/suicidality. Secondary data analyses were carried out on cross-sectional self-report data collected from 4848 (Mage=15.78, SDâ =â 0.59; 50% female) adolescents who participated in the Irish Planet Youth survey. Latent Class Analyses identified four distinct profiles of adversity; low-adversity (nâ =â 2043, 42%); peer-adversity (nâ =â 972, 20%); parental-adversity (nâ =â 1189, 25%); and multiple-adversity (nâ =â 644, 13%). Findings from logistic moderated regressions indicated that there were significant differences in self-harm and suicidality across the adversity classes. Although parental support and perceived safety at school were negatively associated with suicidality and self-harm outcomes, no significant moderation effects were observed. These findings suggest that youth who experience adversity across multiple social domains are more likely to report suicidal and self-harm thoughts and behaviours, and should be key targets for intervention/prevention efforts. While parental support and school safety may act as significant compensatory factors, further work is needed to identify the social resources that can offset the risk imposed by youthâ s adverse experiences.
  • Publication
    Child, parent or family? Applying a systemic lens to the conceptualisations of Family Support in Europe
    (Taylor & Francis, 2022-11-19) Devaney, Carmel; Christiansen, Øivin; Holzer, Julia; MacDonald, Mandi; Matias, Marisa; Salamon, Eszter
    This paper considers how Family Support is conceptualised in the European context with respect to its primary beneficiaries. The central question considers the focus of concern in a child welfare system and what it means when Family Support is focused on children, on parents, or involves the family unit as a whole. Informed by a body of relevant literature reviewed as part of a wider project, Family Support is seen as more often conceptualised as being targeted toward parents as the primary service user, and to a lesser extent described as being tailored toward children or whole families. This approach to Family Support provision is somewhat at odds with a systemic understanding of families, which is foundational to much social care and child welfare work, and which takes account of the multi-layered relationships between individuals within families, and between individuals, families and their social world. Applying an ecological systems perspective, this paper critically discusses the consequences for the involved stakeholders and the implementation of services at different system levels when support and interventions are targeted at the child, the parents or at the family as a whole.
  • Publication
    Children’s participation in practice: comparing the views of managers and practitioners in an early intervention and prevention programme
    (Emerald, 2022-03-17) Tierney, Edel; Rodriguez, Leonor; Kennan, Danielle; Devaney, Carmel; Brady, Bernadine; Canavan, John; Forkan, Cormac; Cassidy, Anne; Malone, Pat; McGregor, Caroline
    Purpose Participation is the active involvement of children and young people in decision-making regarding issues that affect their lives. It is crucial in the context of child protection and welfare systems and how they respond to the needs of children and young people. The purpose of this paper is to report on the evaluation of child and family participation in an early intervention and prevention programme implemented by the Irish Child and Family Agency. It provides an analysis of a comprehensive, “whole organization” approach to understand how participation is embedded in policy and practice. Design/methodology/approach This paper reports on a comparative qualitative case study of the perspectives of managers and practitioners about participation practice, identifying the facilitators and barriers, as well as their perspectives of the sustainability of participation within the agency and its partners. The authors draw on two complementary, theoretically informed studies evaluating participatory practice within the Agency using qualitative interviews with participants. Findings Overall, managers and practitioners had a positive attitude towards participation and identified examples of best practices. Facilitators included training, access to resources and the quality of relationships. Challenges for meaningful participation remain, such as the need to engage, hard to reach populations. Differences were identified regarding how embedded and sustainable participation was. Originality/value This paper provides a critical understanding of participation in practice and how to embed a culture of participation in child protection and welfare.
  • Publication
    Protective support and supportive protection: Critical reflections on safe practice and safety in supervision
    (MDPI, 2022-07-18) Devaney, Carmel; Mc Gregor, Caroline
    This paper was based on a framework for practice and supervision based on `protective-support and supportive-protection¿ (PS-SP) that can be used to discuss and plan for practice in a way that maximises the capacity of workers in child protection and welfare (CPW) services to provide support and protection simultaneously. The framework is underpinned by a long-established assumption about social work in child protection and welfare as a socio-legal practice of mediation in the social. The PS-SP framework was initially developed within an ecological context with a focus on networks and networking. In this paper, we developed this framework further, framing practice supervision using four functions of supervision (management, support, development, and mediation) and including a fifth component on safety. We did this alongside a review of related considerations around safety in supervision in general and in child protection and welfare in particular. While noting the important contribution of this work, we identified ongoing gaps for supervision focused on safety when considered within an ecological context. Bearing in mind the well-evidenced stress, challenges, and vicarious nature of child protection and welfare practice, we argued the importance of a wider framework based on PS-SP for supervision and support to manage this complexity with a particular emphasis on `safety¿ as a contribution to this. To illustrate our framework and discussion, we referred to a case study throughout. This case study is drawn from a high-profile child abuse inquiry in Ireland over a decade ago. This case was chosen as it demonstrates the complex interplay of needs for support and protection over extended time. We considered how the PS-SP framework may be used in the present (hypothetically) regarding such a case scenario.
  • Publication
    Developing, implementing and critiquing an evaluation framework to assess the extent to which a child’s right to be heard is embedded at an organisational level
    (Springer, 2021-08-10) Kennan, Danielle; Brady, Bernadine; Forkan, Cormac; Tierney, Edel; Atlantic Philanthropies Ireland; Galway University Foundation; National University of Ireland, Galway
    The national Child and Family Agency in Ireland, in 2015, undertook an ambitious three-year programme of work to embed a child s right to be heard in its culture and operations. In parallel to its implementation, the authors of this paper were tasked with evaluating to what extent this intended outcome, that a child s right to be heard was embedded in the government agency s culture and operations, was achieved. The overarching evaluation design was a mixed methods baseline and follow up study. This paper reports on the development and implementation of the evaluation framework guiding the study. The framework comprised seven structural and process indicators adapted from the Council of Europe Child Participation Assessment Tool and five outcome indicators informed by the Lundy Model of participation. As well as reporting on the evaluation process, the paper critiques the value of the framework, its benefits, challenges and the pitfalls along the way to inform future evaluations.
  • Publication
    Empathy, social responsibility, and civic behavior among Irish adolescents: A socio-contextual approach
    (SAGE Publications, 2020-12-09) Silke, Charlotte; Brady, Bernadine; Boylan, Ciara; Dolan, Pat
    Research suggests that empathy and positive social values are important drivers of youth prosocial and civic action. However, theory and research indicate that young people’s civic behaviors are also shaped by their socio-contextual experiences. Drawing on a sample of 533 adolescents from public secondary schools in the Republic of Ireland, this research employed structural equation modeling to examine whether youth’s (cognitive and affective) empathy and social responsibility values mediated the relationship between youth’s social (parents, peers, school, and community) contexts and their civic behavior. Results suggest that youth’s cognitive empathy and social responsibility values appear to mediate the relationship between a number of social-contextual experiences and youth’s civic behavior. Overall, the findings from this research have important implications for research and practice.
  • Publication
    Social values and civic behaviour among youth in Ireland: The influence of social contexts
    (SAGE Publications, 2019-07-16) Silke, Charlotte; Brady, Bernadine; Dolan, Pat; Irish Research Council
    As youth civic engagement is widely considered important for social cohesion and democracy, concerns have been expressed regarding a perceived decline in civic and political engagement among young people throughout the western world. While research has shown that the social environment is influential in terms of the development of civic values, knowledge and behaviours among youth, limited research has been conducted on these issues in an Irish context. Drawing on survey research conducted with 167 young people aged 12–15 years in Irish secondary schools, this paper examines young people's civic attitudes and behaviours and how they are linked to their social contexts. Findings indicate that youth report high levels of social responsibility values but low engagement in both online and offline civic engagement. Furthermore, while parent, peer, school and/or community contexts were found to have a significant influence on youths' social responsibility values and offline civic behaviours, youth's online civic behaviours were not connected to these social environments. This study provides insights into the socialisation of civic values and behaviours among young people in Ireland and highlights the importance of investigating the link between the social context and different forms of youth civic involvement.
  • Publication
    Relational dynamics in formal youth mentoring programmes: A longitudinal investigation into the association between relationship satisfaction and youth outcomes
    (Elsevier, 2019-05-18) Silke, Charlotte; Brady, Bernadine; Dolan, Pat; Children's Research Network
    Youth mentoring is defined as a close, interpersonal relationship between a young person and a more experienced adult. The quality of the youth-mentor relationship is critical to youth mentoring interventions and thus it is imperative that relational dynamics, such as match satisfaction, are explored and understood in order to further inform programme development. Methods This research outlines a secondary analysis of quantitative data gathered as part of a large scale, longitudinal evaluation of the Big Brother Big Sister (BBBS) of Ireland programme (Dolan et al., 2011). Specifically, 76 young people and their mentors who took part in the Irish BBBS programme completed questionnaires assessing their perceptions of the quality of their mentoring relationship. Multiple waves of data collection were completed over a two year period. Young people also reported on their developmental outcomes at each time point. Results Results from a series of hierarchical regression analyses suggest that both mentor and mentee's perceptions of match satisfaction are significantly associated with youth developmental outcomes over time. Discussion Overall, this research reports several findings that have relevance for youth mentoring research and practice and expands our understanding of how match satisfaction can impact the success of formal youth mentoring programmes, such as the BBBS programme.
  • Publication
    Family support and the media in Ireland: Newspaper content analysis 2014–2017
    (Routledge, 2021-01-15) O’Connor, Patricia; McGregor, Caroline; Devaney, Carmel; Atlantic Philanthropies
    The objective of this paper is to inform a critical analysis of how the media portray family support in Ireland. Findings of a content analysis carried out on national and regional Irish newspapers between 2014 and 2017 are presented which describe communication about family support services provided by Tusla Child and Family Agency. Results show that even though child protection was not used as a specific search term, news items on the Child and Family Agency and family support were usually focused on child protection and children in care. Results also show that family support activities are reported more positively in local papers compared to national papers. In the discussion, we argue that these findings are important as the media plays an important role in how the public understand, view, and engage with integrated child protection and welfare systems. We consider the implications of the research and advocate working with the media to inform their interpretation and understanding of family support. We suggest this is important as the manner in which the media communicate and frame family support as part of the overall child protection and welfare system is one of the main influences on public understandings and awareness of preventative family support and child welfare services.
  • Publication
    Help seeking and help providing in Ireland
    (Association of Children's Welfare Agencies (ACWA) and the NSW Family Services (FamS), 2019-12) Devaney, Carmel; Rodriguez, Leonor; Cassidy, Anne
    Recent developments in the Irish child welfare system have involved a targeted move towards the provision of accessible help at a more timely point for children, young people and their families. It is widely accepted that preventing maltreatment or minimising the harm experienced by children and young people is the desired approach in social service provision. The rhetoric of prevention and early intervention has been [almost] centre stage in Ireland for well over a decade (Devaney and Dolan, 2017). However, it is only in the very recent past that this has translated into a practical orientation within service provision. Prior to this, there was quite a different landscape in children and families services. The current statutory child and family agency, Tusla, was established in 2014 as part of a comprehensive reform and consolidation of child protection, early intervention and family support services in Ireland. Before Tusla was established, child protection and welfare was delivered as part of a wider health and social services programme including hospital and primary care (Burns and McGregor, 2019). Prevention and family support services played an important but relatively minor part in terms of resources and staffing in the former statutory structures and was delivered more prominently within the voluntary and community sector (See Burns and McGregor, 2019; Devaney and McGregor, 2016; Devaney and Rooney, 2018). However, there has been a significant reorientation in this regard. Tusla now has a dedicated programme of Prevention, Partnership and Family Support (PPFS), which operates within its child protection and welfare function. This paper considers the traditional attitudes to, and arrangements for, help seeking and help providing in Ireland and debates the current approaches and their potential.
  • Publication
    Conceptualising coping and resilience in the context of socio-political and economic change: Generational perspectives from Slovenia
    (Routledge, 2020-06-09) Kovačič, Tanja; Dolan, Pat
    The significance of a wider social context in building youth resilience has recently been recognised, with the suggestion that resilience research requires a move from individual-level experience to wider social practices, discourses, and ideological positions. Relatively little research looks at rapid ideological change in state institutions and structures, or the consequent implications this has for understanding protective mechanisms and coping strategies among young people. Based on the socio-ecological approach to resilience, this article explores the meaning of youth resilience in the context of a sudden socio-political transformation in Slovenia. For this purpose, experiences with transitions to adulthood in 20 people growing up under socialism and post-socialism are compared. Narrative thematic analysis of the interviews shows two types of transitions to adulthood emerging: supported, and individualised This article shows that the meaning of youth resilience changes through socio-political and economic transformation. It emphasises the role that social policies and state ideologies have in shaping social ecologies and consequently youth perceptions of risk and coping: from social processes under socialism to an individual process in post-socialism.
  • Publication
    Help seeking and help providing in Ireland
    (Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies, 2019-12) Devaney, Carmel; Rodriguez, Leonor; Cassidy, Anne
    Recent developments in the Irish child welfare system have involved a targeted move towards the provision of accessible help at a more timely point for children, young people and their families. It is widely accepted that preventing maltreatment to or minimizing the harm experienced by children and young people is the desired approach in social service provision. However, it is only in the very recent past that this has translated into a practical orientation within service provision in Ireland. To this end, there has been a significant reorientation of the child welfare landscape towards a dedicated focus on prevention and family support. This change has coincided with the establishment of a new statutory Child and Family Agency - Tusla. Prior to this, child protection and welfare was delivered as part of a wider health and social services programme including hospital and primary care. This paper considers the traditional attitudes to, and arrangements for, help seeking and help providing in Ireland and debates the current approaches and their future potential.
  • Publication
    Protective support and supportive protection for families “in the middle”: Learning from the Irish context
    (Wiley, 2019-08-08) McGregor, Caroline; Devaney, Carmel
    This paper critically examines the relationship between statutory family support and child protection using the case study of Ireland. It builds on the work of Devaney and McGregor (2017) to offer an additional contribution to existing frameworks for practice through adapting the Hardiker Exton and Barker (1991) model of prevention. Using evidence from current Irish developments, the case for moving away from linear and simplistic differentiation of family support and child protection is made. Evidence from three main sources in Ireland is presented to develop the argument. This evidence includes the Child Care Law Reporting project (Coulter, 2015, 2018); a recent evaluation of a family support practice model called Meitheal (Rodriguez Cassidy and Devaney, 2018) and recent findings about public awareness of family support (McGregor and NicGabhainn, 2018). We argue that special attention should be paid to families "in the middle" who are in need of both support and protection and propose an adapted version of Hardiker et al. model to aid in this work. We identify what should happen at different levels for macrostructural to micropractice levels. We conclude that the learning from the Irish case study can be applied to an international context.
  • Publication
    Exploring the multi-dimensionality of permanence and stability: Emotions, experiences and temporality in young people s discourses about long-term foster care in Ireland
    (SAGE Publications, 2019-08-28) Moran, Lisa; McGregor, Caroline; Devaney, Carmel; Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, Ireland
    This paper focuses on qualitative findings on how young people in long-term foster care in Ireland interpret permanence and stability. We focus principally on subjective and relational permanence, emphasising the significance of these concepts for social work, while extending some conceptual approaches to permanence. Importantly, findings from this study highlight conceptual gaps in how permanence and stability are conceptualised in research and we outline an approach which more fully embraces the multi-dimensionality of young people’s life experiences and emotions. Recent studies underline that permanence encompasses several elements (e.g. ecological, legal). However, this paper extends current research in illustrating how Irish young people in foster care experience permanence and stability every day, and how these experiences embrace discursive, emotional and temporal dimensions.