PhD Funding Opportunities
Funded PhD Opportunities in the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast 2021-22
The School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast invites applications for the following fully funded PhD topics. Please note that only one of these will proceed.
The successful applicant will receive funding by the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy (DfE). Funded studentships may cover maintenance and fees for a maximum of three years, (3.5 for DTP) depending on residency status. For further details re eligibility criteria (including academic, citizenship and residency criteria) please click on the DfE Research Eligibility Guidance Notes: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/department-economy-studentships.
Two halves make a whole: Exploring the role of the families in caring for police officers with occupational related psychological distress.
A wealth of literature has focused on the psychosocial determinants of health and well-being in first responder populations such as police officers. The focus has been placed on these populations as they are often at an increased risk for exposures to traumatic incidents through the nature of their occupational roles and therefore are also at an increased risk of developing adverse posttraumatic outcomes. Less attention has been given in the research literature to the impact that this has on the families of police officers and the caring responsibilities that family members face in times of the development of post-trauma difficulties. Police officers often work in environments which are fast-paced, may require long and sometimes unexpected hours, and which may place them in direct danger. This can disrupt family schedules, upset children, and cause worry and distress in spouses / intimate partners. When psychological difficulties present in police officers due to occupational traumas it is often the family who first notice and have to attend to the distress. They have to care for the police officer and navigate situations which minimise family disruption and at times minimise the potential impact on children. This PhD project will focus on spouses / intimate partners who have cared for police officers with occupational related psychological distress. Through survey data collection and in depth interviews we will gain a better understanding of the role of the family and how caring for those with psychological distress has impacted on them and their children. This project will be a mixed methods project utilising both quantitative (survey methodology) and qualitative (respondent interviews) data collection methods.
Identifying psychological mechanisms which promote resilience post-trauma.
Posttraumatic stress disorder was incorporated into the DSM-3 in 1982. An extensive body of literature has since focused on trauma experiences and their corresponding human responses. Of note, the predominant focus has been on negative psychological outcomes post-trauma including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but also a range of other, often comorbid, psychopathological disorders such as depression and anxiety. The key question being: why is it that when people experience negative life events, they become psychologically unwell? This is an interesting focus given that population estimates of trauma exposure are exceptionally high in comparison to those who go on to develop a posttraumatic stress outcome. Conversely, epidemiological surveys have reported that even when we consider countries with the highest rate of PTSD within the population, this rate equates to approximately 8.8% (this is the rate of PTSD in NI as recorded by the Northern Ireland Study for Health and Stress which was part of the World Mental Health Consortium). So in reality more people who experience trauma remain psychologically well than those who become psychologically unwell. This is referred to as resilience. This concept has arguably received less attention in the academic literature compared to PTSD. In fact, as recent as the early nighties the concept was ignored, denied or at best regarded as a rare form of ‘exceptional emotional strength’ (Casella & Motta, 1990; Shedler, Mayman, & Manis, 1993). However, as the research on posttraumatic responding broadened alongside the development and application of advanced statistical modelling techniques, the trauma field started to uncover genuine resilience in the form of a proportion of people reporting stable, healthy levels of psychological functioning in the aftermath of traumatic events (Bonanno, 2004, 2005). In a review of 67 unique trajectory studies of psychological responding posttrauma, Galatzer-Levy, Huang, and Bonanno, (2018) confirmed that the majority outcome, with two-thirds of participants falling into this category, is indeed one of resilience. This, therefore, changes the question from: ‘Why is it that when people experience negative life events, they become psychologically unwell?’ to ‘Why is it that most people who experience traumatic life events cope so well?’ This PhD project will explore the mechanisms between the trauma and resilience relationship. We are interested in the process of flexible self-regulation, which is a multi-component concept consisting of proficiency in context sensitivity, emotional regulation and having a flexible mindset (see Bonanno et al., 2004; Bonanno & Burton, 2013; Cheng, Lau, & Chan, 2014; Kashdan & Rottenberg, 2010). The population of interest is those who have experienced traumatic events and remained resilient, for example those who have worked as critical care nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic or those who have experiences occupational related traumas such as emergency responders, police, fire, military. Prospective students can specify their choice of population in their proposal in addition to outlining a plan for access to the population. This will be a mixed methods study requiring a systematic review of the literature, and qualitative and quantitative studies.
Revenge is Sweet: Identifying the social and psychological drivers of human desire for revenge after criminal victimisation.
When humans are hurt, they often want to hurt back. The phrase ‘tit for tat’ is commonplace in everyday language and many scholars report that the desire for revenge is as old as humankind. In other words, the desire for revenge is believed to be an innate survival response. Revenge can be defined as “the infliction of harm in righteous response to perceived harm or injustice” (Stuckless & Goranson, 1994, p. 803) or as “the attempt, at some cost or risk to oneself, to impose suffering upon those who have made one suffer, because they have made one suffer” (Elster, 1990, p. 862). To take revenge on another is an act that occurs after the original transgression towards the victim, thus the event has already occurred meaning that the act of revenge is not as a defensive response to a threating event, rather it is much more of a planned and deliberate retaliation against a perpetrator. This often-insatiable need for revenge coupled with a motivation for aggression towards another can cause the individual a great deal of psychological distress. Indeed, prior studies have reported that those who have a pre-occupation with revenge are typically also those who report psychopathological symptomatology (Greenwald & Harder, 1994). In addition, enacting revenge can result in some serious adverse consequences for the person, including imprisonment. For example, prior research has shown that common motives for domestic homicides are revenge and jealousy (Milroy, 1995). So, a key question within this filed is ‘what drives someone to have an insatiable need for revenge to the point that it causes them significant psychological distress and if they enact their revenge fantasies it could in more extreme circumstances, result in serious and significant consequences on their freedoms? One possible explanation presented in the literature is that those who desire revenge are also those who are prone to feeling the emotion of shame. Indeed, shame proneness has been empirically linked to an increase propensity of angry outbursts, and both malevolent and fractious intentions (felt like getting back at someone or felt like letting off steam), conversely shame proneness was unrelated to constructive intentions of trying to find ways of working together towards a resolution (Tangney, Wagner, Hill-Barlow, Marschall, & Gramzow, 1996). The emotion of shame has long been associated with interpersonal victimisation. For example, those who have experienced traumas such as childhood maltreatment, domestic violence, and physical assault. It is, however, likely that what drives human desire for revenge is far more complex than this and that the predictors of a desire for revenge are broad and interlinking. This PhD project aims to examine a variety of possible social and psychological predictors of the huma desire for revenge particularly as a response to criminal victimisation. This will be a mixed methods study requiring a systematic review of the literature, and qualitative and quantitative studies.
The School welcomes applications from international students. Mobility allowances of up to £500 per year to cover travel expenses to Belfast will normally be available to successful candidates eligible for QUB international tuition fee rates. Note that international students do not normally meet the residency criteria set out for DfE funded studentships.
For a full description please visit the following link https://www.qub.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate-research/phd-opportunities/ and go to School of Psychology.
The deadline for the two DfE funded applications is 22nd October 2021. (see How to Apply: http://www.qub.ac.uk/Study/PostgraduateStudy/How-to-apply/)
Applicants must have at least a 2.1 degree (or equivalent) in Psychology or a related subject.
The University is committed a policy of equal opportunity. Prospective students with a disability or long term condition are encouraged to disclose as early as possible in the application and selection process by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Upon disclosure the University will ensure appropriate reasonable adjustments and additional supports can be put in place for applicants. Reasonable adjustments and additional supports will be determined on an individual basis, in line with the course entry requirements to ensure selection standards are maintained.