Dr Niamh O’Brien

Associate Professor

Faculty:
Faculty of Health, Medicine and Social Care
School:
School of Allied Health and Social Care
Location:
Chelmsford
Research Supervision:
Yes

Niamh is Associate Professor of Social Inclusion and Young People at ARU, as well as a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2022-present) and Research Fellow at the UNESCO Chair on Tackling Bullying in Schools and Cyberspace through a Global Partnership for Equality and Wellbeing, National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC), Dublin City University (2017-present). She is also an alumni of the Aurora Women in Leadership programme (2018).

Niamh’s expertise is in undertaking participatory approaches to research involving children and young people. Her interests are in school bullying and exploring the perspectives of those with care experiences.

[email protected]

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View Niamh's profile on ResearchGate

Background

Niamh has undertaken research at ARU since 2004. She has both worked and led on a range of projects seeking the views of children and young people in a variety of settings.

She completed her PhD in April 2016, which explored bullying in a private day and boarding school. The study actively involved school students as researchers through a Participatory Action Research (PAR) framework. Read Niamh's thesis.

From 2019-2023, Niamh was a management committee member and leader of Working Group 4: 'Pupil voice and the promotion of inclusion: levels of application, practice and benefits' for TRIBES: CA18115 - Transnational Collaboration on Bullying, Migration and Integration at School Level.

Research interests

Participatory approaches to research with young people including:

  • School bullying
  • Childhood
  • Care experienced: young people and care leavers

Areas of research supervision

  • Exploring a cyclical model of professional development: Insights from childminders
  • Meaningful relationships in foster care: an interpretive inquiry of supervising social workers within three independent fostering providers
  • Secondary school students’ perspectives on how governors listen and respond to student voice: An exploration through participatory research principles
  • How do young people conceptualise mental health?
  • An exploration of significant events during free play and reflexive learning in children aged 7-11.

Teaching

2009-present: Qualitative data analysis for MA Social Work Dissertation; Research Methods for MA Social Work dissertation; Ethics in Social Work Research for MA Social Work dissertation

2018-present: Ethics in Social Research for MA Education students

2018-present: Ethics in Social Research for Education doctoral students

2018-2021: Conceptual Frameworks for doctoral students; Communicating Your Research (conferences, conference papers and proceedings); Introduction to Methodology and Philosophy of Social Science for doctoral students; Introduction to Qualitative Methods of Enquiry for doctoral students

Qualifications

  • 2022: PG Cert Higher Education with Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, ARU
  • 2016: PhD: To ‘Snitch’ or Not to ‘Snitch’? Using PAR to Explore Bullying in a Private Day and Boarding School, ARU
  • 2008: MSc: Child Development, Research and Policy, ARU
  • 2001: BA (Hons) Applied Social Studies in Social Care, Waterford Institute of Technology

Memberships, editorial boards

  • 2023-present: Managing Editor for International Journal of Bullying Prevention
  • 2022-2025: Invited Guest Editor for Educational Action Research Journal special issue: Putting lived experiences at the heart of research: showcasing the use of participatory inquiry in health and social care
  • 2020-present: Invited International Advisory Board member for Educational Action Research Journal
  • February 2019: Invitation as an expert in bullying research to review abstracts for the Second World Anti-Bullying Forum, UNESCO Chair on Tackling Bullying in Schools and Cyberspace National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC), Dublin City University, Republic of Ireland.
  • 2015-present: Regular reviewer for many journals including: International Journal of Bullying Prevention, Educational Action Research Journal, Canadian Journal of School Psychology, Psychology in the Schools, Journal of Youth Studies, International Journal of Emotional Education (thematic special issue), Media International Australia, Sustainability, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

  • Co-Principal Investigator: An exploration of bullying in a private day and boarding school in Dublin using a Participatory Action Research Framework. Funded by the research site (confidential). 2021-2024. 30,000 Euros
  • Principal Investigator (research): Data and Digital Solutions Fund (DDSF) – Project 2a: User research into social worker inputted data to Case Management Systems (CMS). Funded by the Department for Education. 2023. £62,475.00
  • Principal Investigator: Research training to Essex County Council project workers. Funded by Essex County Council. 2023. £8,330.00
  • Principal Investigator: Working with care leavers to explore their experiences and support from social workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Funded by the Department for Education. 2021. £23,760
  • Principal Investigator: Working with young people with disabilities to explore their experiences and support from social workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Funded by the Department for Education. 2021. £7,040
  • Principal Investigator: Missing Chats Data Analysis. Funded by Essex County Council. £20,250.00
  • Leader of Working Group 4: 'Pupil voice and the promotion of inclusion: levels of application, practice and benefits', TRIBES: CA18115 - Transnational Collaboration on Bullying, Migration and Integration at School Level. Funded by E-COST. 2019-2023.
  • Principal Investigator: Developing and showcasing FHSCE Strategy for involving Experts by Experience in Teaching, Learning and Research. Funded by the Faculty of Health Social Care and Education, Research & Enterprise Investment Programme, 2016. £10,000
  • Researcher: BRIC: Young Children, Public Spaces and Democracy. European Union, Erasmus+. 2014-2017. Approx. £200,000
  • Researcher: Developing a bespoke engagement strategy for a Women’s Refuge. Funded by Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex. 2014. £19,648
  • Principal Investigator: EssexFamily Tendring: An Evaluation of the Family Worker Service. Funded by Tendring District Council. 2013. £17,138.00

Selected recent publications

O’Brien, N. and Doyle, A. (2023) 'Exploring School Bullying: Designing the Research Question with Young Co-Researchers', Social Sciences, 12(5), pp.276.

O’Brien, N. and Dadswell, A. (2023) 'Listening to young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) about their experiences of support during the Covid-19 pandemic'. In: Krzaklewska, E., Stapleton, A., Tillmann, F., Williamson, H. (Eds.) (2023) Transitions on hold? How the Covid-19 pandemic affected young people’s transitions to autonomy, pp. 147-162. Available at: https://pjp-eu.coe.int/en/web/youth-partnership/transitions-on-hold-

Dadswell, A. and O’Brien, N. (2022) 'Participatory Research with Care Leavers to Explore their Support Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic', The British Journal of Social Work, 52(6), pp. 3639-3657.

O’Brien, N. (2021) 'School factors with a focus on boarding schools'. In: Smith, P. and O’Higgins-Norman, J. (Eds.) (2021) The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Bullying: A Comprehensive and International Review of Research and Intervention. New Jersey: Wiley, pp. 467-484.

Dadswell, A. and O’Brien, N. (2020) 'Working with Adolescents to Understand Bullying and Self–Exclusion from School', International Journal of Developmental Science, 14(3-4), pp. 63-73.

O’Brien, N. and Dadswell, A. (2020) 'Reflections on a participatory research project exploring bullying and school self-exclusion: power dynamics, practicalities and partnership working', Pastoral Care in Education, 38(3), pp. 208-229. Available at: "https://doi.org/10.1080/02643944.2020.1788126

Törrönen, M., Munn-Giddings, C., Gavriel, C., O’Brien, N., Byrne, P. and Young Peer Researchers (2019) Publications of the Faculty of Social Sciences 75: Reciprocal emotional relationships Experiences of stability of young adults leaving care in collaboration with the Essex Children in Care Council. Helsinki: University of Helsinki. Available at: https://blogs.helsinki.fi/reciprocalencounters-youngadultsleavingcare/files/2018/09/Reciprocal-Emotional-Relationships-260918.pdf

O’Brien, N. (2019) 'Understanding Alternative Bullying Perspectives Through Research Engagement With Young People', Frontiers in Psychology, 10, pp. 1984. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01984

O’Brien, N., Munn-Giddings, C. and Moules, T. (2018) 'The Ethics of Involving Young People Directly in the Research Process', Childhood Remixed, pp. 115-128. ISSN 2515-4516

O’Brien, N., Munn-Giddings, C., and Moules, T. (2018) 'The repercussions of reporting bullying: some experiences of students at an independent secondary school', Pastoral Care in Education, pp. 29-43. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/02643944.2017.1422004

O’Brien, N., Moules, T. and Munn-Giddings, C. (2018) 'Negotiating the research space between young people and adults in exploring school bullying'. In: Törrönen, M., Munn-Giddings C., and Tarkiainen, L. (Eds) (2018) Reciprocal Relationships and Well-being: Implications for Social Work and Social Policy. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 160-175.

Moules, T. and O'Brien, N. (2016) 'The child's perspective and service delivery'. In: DeBell, D. (Ed.) (2016) Public Health for Children. 2nd edn. London: Taylor and Francis, pp. 247-269.

Munn-Giddings, C., McVicar, A., Boyce, M. and O’Brien, N. (2016) 'Learning from older citizens’ research groups', Educational Gerontology, 42(1), pp. 58-69. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/03601277.2015.1065690

O’Brien, N. (2014) '“I didn’t want to be known as a snitch”: Using PAR to explore bullying in a private day and boarding school', Childhood Remixed, pp. 86-96.

Akister, J. and O’Brien, N. (2014) 'The mental wellbeing of children and parents when there are child protection concerns— can volunteers help?' Childhood Remixed, pp. 6-14.

O'Brien, N. and Moules, T. (2013) 'Not sticks and stones but tweets and texts: findings from a national cyberbullying project', Pastoral Care in Education, 31(1), pp. 53-65. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/02643944.2012.747553

Recent presentations and conferences

Invited speaker

O’Brien, N. and Doyle, A. 2022. Involving young people in participatory research projects. Cost Action 18115 TRIBES “Transnational Collaboration on Bullying, Migration and Integration at School Level”. Mediterranean University (Universiteti Mesdhetar i Shqipërisë), Tirana, Albania 6-7 September 2022. Keynote speakers.

O’Higgins-Norman, J., Kuldas, S., Bjereld, Y., O’Brien, N., Fandrem, H., Meehan, M. and Samara, M., 2021. Bullying and migration – racism, integration and inclusion. A Marcus Wallenberg Symposium. In The World Anti-Bullying Forum. Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre, Stockholm, Sweden. 1-3 November. Invited panel member. (hybrid event)

O’Brien, N., 2021. Care leavers’ experiences of support during the covid-19 pandemic. Social Work in a Pandemic. Department for Education. 30 November 2021. (Attended by Isabelle Trowler, the government's first Chief Social Worker for Children and Families since September 2013). Invited panel member.

O’Brien. N., 2019. Applying a Participatory Research approach to the production of bullying knowledge. Presentation to the National Anti-Bullying Centre. Dublin City University. 3 October. Invited speaker.

O’Brien, N., 2019. Understanding bullying through research engagement with young people. Centre for Applied Childhood, Youth and Family Research Seminar Series 2018-19. University of Huddersfield. 16 May. Invited speaker.

O’Brien, N., 2019. Understanding bullying through research engagement with young people. Pre-Reg Nurses Conference. Anglia Ruskin University. 18 June. Invited speaker.

O’Brien. N., 2018. Using Participatory Action Research to explore bullying with young people. Presentation to the National Anti-Bullying Centre. Dublin City University. 24 May. Invited speaker.

O’Brien, N., 2017. The Impact Bullying had on my Life: An exploratory study of young people's self-exclusion from school. ‘All equal, all different’: Contemporary Research and Practice in Anti-bullying. Birmingham City University. 15 November. Invited speaker.

O’Brien, N., 2016. Bullying and snitching in an Independent School. The Independent Schools Association Annual Conference. Dunston Hall, Norwich. 12-14 May. Keynote speaker.

O’Brien, N., 2016. Cyberbullying and the impact on children. Third Children’s Nursing Student Conference. Anglia Ruskin University. 19 May. Invited speaker.

O’Brien, N., 2014. “I didn’t want to be known as a snitch”: Using PAR to Explore Bullying in a Private Day and Boarding School. “Behind closed doors” contemporary issues in safeguarding conference. Anglia Ruskin University. 2 July. Invited speaker.

Other selected conference presentations

O’Brien, N. and Doyle, A. 2023. Exploring School Bullying: Designing the Research Question with Young Co-Researchers. Collaborative and Participatory Methodological Special Interest Group (NCRM). 27 April.

O’Brien, N. and Doyle, A. 2023. Exploring School Bullying: Designing the Research Question with Young Co-Researchers. 7th World Conference on Qualitative Research, Faro, Portugal. 25-27 January.

O’Brien, N., 2022. Ethical and Practical Challenges in Participatory Action Research with young people. 8th Annual Research Conference: Responding to Challenges in Research. Anglia Ruskin University. 6 May. (online conference)

Spencer, G. and O’Brien, N., 2022. Co-production, co-design and co-authorship. Part of series: Researching Youth – Methods Seminar Series Co-production, co-design and co-authorship. 18 May. (online seminar)

O’Brien, N. and Dadswell, A., 2021. Care leavers’ experiences of support during the covid-19 pandemic. FHEMS Annual Research Conference. 3 March.

O’Brien, N. and Dadswell, A., 2021. Care leavers’ experiences of support during the covid-19 pandemic. Essex Social Care Academy Conference: Effective Children's Social Work in a Pandemic; What we’ve Learned. 26 May.

O’Brien, N. and Dadswell, A., 2021. Young people with disabilities’ experiences of support during the covid-19 pandemic. Essex Social Care Academy Conference: Effective Children's Social Work in a Pandemic; What we’ve Learned. 26 May.

O’Brien, N. and Hipp, K., 2021. Student voices in the school environment: a website analysis. European Association for Developmental Psychology conference. University of Stavanger, Norway. 17 September. (online)

O’Brien, N. and Dadswell, A., 2021. Care leavers’ experiences of support during the covid-19 pandemic. Social Work in a Pandemic. Department for Education. 30 November. (Attended by Isabelle Trowler, the government's first Chief Social Worker for Children and Families since September 2013).

O’Brien, N. and Dadswell, A., 2019. Working with young people to understand bullying and self-exclusion from school. Workshop on Aggression: International Perspectives on Bullying, Segregation and Inclusion. Stavanger, Norway, 7-8 November. (peer reviewed)

O’Brien, N. and Dadswell, A., 2019. Working with young people to understand bullying and self-exclusion from school. Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine, and Social Care (FHEMS) Research Conference. Anglia Ruskin University. 13 September.

Smith, P., Slonje, R. and O'Brien, N., 2019. The Work of the Red Balloon Learner Centres, UK. Second World Anti Bullying Forum. National Anti-Bullying Centre, Dublin City University, 4-6 June. (peer reviewed)

O'Brien, N., Törrönen, M. and Munn-Giddings, C., 2018. Reflections on involving young adult care leavers as co-researchers: successes and challenges. Collaborative Action Research Network International Conference: Voicing and Valuing: Daring and Doing. Friends’ Meeting House, Manchester, UK, 23-25 October.

O'Brien, N., 2018. Understanding Bullying through research engagement with young people. Fifth Annual FHSCE Research Conference, Anglia Ruskin University. 14 September.

O’Brien, N., 2018. Developing reciprocity between adults and young people in the research process. A Child’s World Conference. Aberystwyth University. 11-13 July. (peer reviewed)

O’Brien, N., 2017. The Ethics of involving young people directly in the Research Process. Children and Childhood conference. University of Suffolk. 18-19 July. (peer reviewed)

O’Brien, N., 2016. To 'snitch' or not to 'snitch': Using PAR to explore bullying in a private day and boarding school. The National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre, Bullies, Bullied and Bystanders: Advancing Knowledge, Understanding and Practice in Education Conference. Dublin City University, 9-10 June. (peer reviewed)

Munn-Giddings, C. and O’Brien, N., 2016. Citizen Engagement Across the Generations: the role of participatory methodologies. Understanding Everyday Participation Conference, Friends’ Meeting House, Manchester. 25-26 May. (peer reviewed)

O’Brien, N., 2015. “I didn’t want to be known as a snitch”: Using PAR to Explore Bullying in a Private Day and Boarding School. The Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association, 3rd annual No 2 Bullying Conference. Outrigger Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Australia, 29-30 June. (peer reviewed)

O’Brien, N., 2014. Fear of reporting bullying in a private day and boarding school: Using a Participatory Action Research Framework to work collaboratively with students of the school. A Child’s World Conference, Aberystwyth University, 25-27 June. (peer reviewed)

Akister, J. and O’Brien, N., 2013. The role of volunteers in home-based child protection intervention: Impact on mental health of family members. Children and Childhoods Conference. University Campus Suffolk. 8 July. (peer reviewed)

O’Brien, N., 2013. Using a Participatory Action Research Framework to investigate Bullying in a Private Day and Boarding School. Children and Childhoods Conference. University Campus Suffolk. 8 July. (peer reviewed)

O’Brien, N., 2013. Using a Participatory Action Research Framework to investigate Bullying in a Private Day and Boarding School. 7th Annual Research Conference. Anglia Ruskin University. 28 June.

O’Brien, N., Marshall, L. and Moules, T., 2013. Exploring the support needs of looked after young people where a sibling(s) has been placed for adoption: A pilot study. Achieving the best outcomes for siblings: The challenge of planning permanence for sibling groups. British Association of Adoption and Fostering, London. 8 May.

Public engagement presentations

O’Brien, N. and Doyle, A. 2023. Exploring School Bullying: Designing the Research Question with Young Co-Researchers. Presentation to Researching Childhood and Youth Research Interest Group (RIG) Webinar. Anglia Ruskin University. 4 July.

O’Brien, N., 2022. Participatory Research and Ethical Issues. Presentation to the Faculty of Business and Law, Good Research Practice Series. Anglia Ruskin University. 27 April. (invited by Deputy Dean for Research)

O’Brien, N. and Dadswell, A., 2021. Care leavers’ experiences of support during the covid-19 pandemic. ARU Discover Event, Mental Health Week. 13 May.

Spencer, G. and O’Brien, N., 2021. Research with children and young people during COVID-19: Ethics, methods and power relations. Researching Childhood and Youth Research Interest Group. 12 May 2021.

O’Brien, N., 2020. “They gave me support, but they just didn’t know what to do”: Exploring support experiences of bullying and self-exclusion from school. Presentation to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG, Bullying). 29 June 2020. (online)

O’Brien. N. and Dadswell, A., 2020. Working with young people to understand bullying and self-exclusion from school. Mental Health Awareness Week. Anglia Ruskin University. 21 May. (online)

O’Brien. N. and Dadswell, A., 2020. Working with young people to understand bullying and self-exclusion from school. Presentation to the Anti-Bullying Alliance Members Meeting. 22 April. Invited speaker. (online)

O’Brien, N., 2017. Exploring bullying at an Independent School using Participatory Action Research. Presentation to The Girls' Schools Association. Bedfordshire School for Girls, 1 March 2017. Invited speaker.

O’Brien, N., 2016. The Impact Bullying had on my Life: An exploratory study of young people's self-exclusion from school. Presentation to the APPG (Bullying). Portcullis House, London. 17 October. Invited speaker.

Munn-Giddings, C., Boyce, M., O’Brien, N., Robinson, C., Wilsher, J. and Lee, K., 2015. Developing a bespoke engagement strategy for a local Women’s Refuge. Police and Crime Commissioners for Essex Networking Event. Chelmsford. 20 January.

Media experience

O’Brien, N., 2013. Fear extends into night - research raises concerns about bullying among boarders. Irish independent 11th December 2016. Available from: https://www.independent.ie/life/fear-extends-into-night-research-raises-concerns-about-bullying-among-boarders-35280168.html

O’Brien, N., 2013. Making cyberspace safer. Centre for Education Research and Practice, 19 November 2013.

O’Brien, N., 2014. Cyberbullying and young people. Drive-time on BBC Essex with Ian Puckey.