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The Developmental Psychopathology Lab is an interdisciplinary group, investigating how stressful environments exacerbate underlying vulnerabilities to affect children’s development. We are broadly interested in the association between early adversity and later child and adolescent mental health problems, with a keen eye towards extremism, crime and violence. Most recently we have been examining biological mediators (e.g. epigenetics, brain imaging) that can help explain how early adversity can have long-lasting impacts.

Our research has been generously supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health (USA), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) UK, the British Academy, Leverhulme and UK Aid via Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

Our main project is the Cross-Border Conflict Evidence, Policy and Trends (XCEPT) research programme, on which Ted Barker is a Co-PI with Shiraz Maher, from War Studies. XCEPT will specifically look at how conflict traumas affect mental health and pathways to violent/peaceful decision-making over time. Put another way, our project is concerned with exploring why some individuals embrace violent means whilst others embrace peaceful ones in different conflict zones.

We will do this by employing large-scale longitudinal surveys across a number of different conflict zones. In practical terms this means we will revisit participants to examine if factors such as ‘want of revenge or peace’ may change depending on contextual events, such as conflict, civil war or a period of prolonged peace. This will be measured through an ‘Impact of Trauma Survey’ developed by our team at KCL.

This survey will be coupled with qualitative follow-ups, such as semi-structured interviews and oral histories, to further explore themes of trauma and conflict. There will also be scalable and easy to implement interventions that will test whether reductions in traumatic stress can bring about reductions in violent extremism.

Our approach will create a rich empirical basis from which our team can propose tangible, practical outcomes for government and other stakeholders. Our goal is to translate first-class and rigorous academic research for consumption by audiences beyond the academy, using empirical insights to drive impactful and meaningful outcomes. We will do this by proposing psychosocial interventions that can reduce violence and promote peace.

The KCL team is interdisciplinary in its composition – comprising of experts in trauma, epigenetics, neuroscience, paychology, memory, gender, war, and terrorism – allowing us to better examine the factors which shape violent and peaceful behaviour. We will focus on three conflict-affected countries in particular: Iraq, Syria, and South Sudan.