Meredith O'Connor

Meredith O'Connor
Murdoch Children's Research Institute | MCRI · Research Theme Population Health, Genes & Environment

BA(hons), DEdPsych, MAPS

About

85
Publications
22,161
Reads
How we measure 'reads'
A 'read' is counted each time someone views a publication summary (such as the title, abstract, and list of authors), clicks on a figure, or views or downloads the full-text. Learn more
1,282
Citations
Introduction
Dr. Meredith O'Connor is an educational and developmental psychologist. Her research investigates the development of optimal mental health over the life course. This includes both mental health challenges, and the mental health strengths and assets that allow people to thrive. To investigate this, she uses data from major Australian and international longitudinal cohorts.
Additional affiliations
April 2016 - present
Australian Institute of Family Studies
Position
  • Research Associate
March 2011 - present
Murdoch Children's Research Institute
Position
  • Research Officer
December 2006 - January 2013
University of Melbourne
Position
  • Research Associate

Publications

Publications (85)
Preprint
Full-text available
Longitudinal cohort studies have the potential to examine causal effects of complex health exposures on longer-term outcomes. Utilizing data from multiple cohorts has the potential to add further benefit, by improving precision of estimates and allowing examination of effect heterogeneity and replicability. However, the interpretation of findings c...
Article
Full-text available
Neighbourhood-level interventions offer a promising opportunity to promote child mental health at a population level; however, neighbourhood effects are still regarded as a 'black box' and a better understanding of the specific design elements, such as public open space, is needed to inform actionable policy interventions. Methods: This study lev...
Article
Full-text available
Background: We examine: (1) the frequency of financial difficulties in Australian families with young children (0-8 years) in the early and later phases of the pandemic; (2) the extent to which parents' pre-pandemic socioeconomic disadvantage (SED) predicted financial difficulties; and (3) whether grandparent intergenerational SED further amplifie...
Preprint
Racism and discrimination are fundamental determinants of health inequities, with children and young people particularly vulnerable. Reports of racism and discrimination rose sharply in 2020 along with the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We examined racism, discrimination (e.g. direct, vicarious, heightened vigilance, and worries about expe...
Article
Understanding of how socio-economic disadvantage experienced over the life course relates to mental health outcomes in young adulthood has been limited by a lack of long-term, prospective studies. Here we address this limitation by drawing on data from a large Australian population cohort study that has followed the development of more than 2,000 A...
Article
Objective Positive childhood experiences (PCEs), that occur within secure and nurturing social environments, are fundamental to healthy physical, socio-emotional, and cognitive development. However, reliable measures of these experiences are not yet widely available. We used data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) to empirica...
Article
Background Mental health inequities are shaped by the environments where children develop, including neighbourhoods. Children living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods tend to have poorer development outcomes, yet little evidence has examined positive mental health outcomes, like competence, in young children. Methods We examined associations between...
Article
Background Mental health inequities can emerge early in life and are shaped by the daily conditions and environments where children develop, including neighbourhoods. Synthesizing evidence around neighbourhoods, disadvantage, and early childhood mental health can advance understandings of neighbourhood features (e.g. housing, parks) associated with...
Article
Background Inflammation is one of key mechanisms linking childhood experiences to later chronic disease risk. Childhood adversity is associated with inflammation, but little is known about positive experiences. We examine how adverse and positive experiences are associated with inflammatory markers in late childhood, and whether they have an intera...
Article
Focus of Presentation Utilising data from multiple cohorts to address causal questions in health research has become increasingly widespread due to a number of advantages. These include improved precision of estimates, in particular to investigate effect heterogeneity as well as rare events and exposures, and the ability to examine the replicabilit...
Article
Full-text available
Background Mental health competence (MHC) involves psychosocial capabilities such as regulating emotions, interacting well with peers and caring for others, and predicts a range of health and social outcomes. This study examines the course of MHC from childhood to adolescence and patterning by gender and disadvantage, in Australian and UK contexts....
Article
Objective : Children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds have poorer learning outcomes. These inequities are a significant public health issue, tracking forward to adverse health outcomes in adulthood. We examined the potential to reduce socioeconomic gaps in children's reading skills through increasing home reading and preschool atten...
Article
Full-text available
PurposeThis study aimed to examine the continuity of internalising difficulties from childhood to adolescence, and determine if the influence of established risk factors on adolescent mental health differed depending on childhood internalising experiences.Methods Data were used from the Kindergarten cohort of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Ch...
Article
Full-text available
The first five years of a child's life are crucial in laying the foundation for their health and developmental trajectory into adulthood. These early years are especially influenced by the surrounding environments in which children live and grow. A large international body of evidence demonstrates that children who experience disadvantage tend to f...
Article
Full-text available
Background We aimed to estimate the association between exposure to adversity and inflammatory markers in mid (4 years) and late (11–12 years) childhood, and whether effects differ by type and timing of exposure. Methods Data sources: Barwon Infant Study (BIS; N = 510 analyzed) and Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC; N = 1156 analyzed...
Article
Full-text available
Objective To determine the prevalence of direct and vicarious racial discrimination experiences from peer, school and societal sources, and examine associations between these experiences and socioemotional and sleep outcomes. Methods Data were analysed from a population representative cross-sectional study of n=4664 school students in years 5–9 (1...
Article
Compared with most other Organization for Economic Co‐operation and Development (OECD) countries, information about the patterns of health service use for children from immigrant families in Australia is currently limited, and internationally, data on unmet healthcare needs are scarce. This study aims to examine the distribution of health service u...
Chapter
Health and learning are inextricably linked: children with additional health and developmental needs (AHDN) begin school with poorer academic and social-emotional skills, compared to their peers and early differences persist. Even conditions with no direct impact on cognitive or neurological functioning—like allergies or asthma—can influence academ...
Article
The Australian New Zealand Intergenerational Cohort Consortium (ANZ-ICC) brings together three of the longest running intergenerational cohort studies in Australia and New Zealand to examine the extent to which preconception parental life histories (from infancy to parenthood) predict next generation early health and development. The aims are three...
Article
Aim: Many children start school with additional health and developmental needs (AHDN), yet how best to support these children for optimal outcomes in the school setting is a complex challenge. This study aims to determine the views of education experts on what differentiates the most effective primary schools. Methods: Qualitative interviews wer...
Article
Aim The inverse care law suggests that those with the greatest need for services are least likely to receive them. Our aim of this study was to test the inverse care law in relation to the use of health services by children aged 4–5 years in Australia who were developmentally vulnerable and socioeconomically disadvantaged. Method Cross-sectional d...
Article
Major policy reforms were instigated in 2008 in Australia to ensure that all children have access to a preschool program in the year before starting school. The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) provides a means of monitoring the impact of these reforms at the population level, as teachers of all children in their first year of school retr...
Article
Objective: Exposure to early adversity carries long term harmful consequences for children's health and development. This study aims to 1) estimate the prevalence of childhood adversity for Australian children from infancy to 10-11 years, and 2) document inequalities in the distribution of adversity according to socioeconomic position (SEP), Indig...
Article
Objectives: Children's additional health and developmental needs are often first identified by teachers when they begin school. This study estimates the Grade 3 literacy and numeracy outcomes of children with teacher-identified additional needs emerging in the first year of school, including the added burden conferred by socioeconomic disadvantage...
Article
Background Early childhood interventions are critical for reducing child health and development inequities. While most research focuses on the efficacy of single interventions, combining multiple evidence-based strategies over the early years of a child’s life may yield greater impact. This study examined the association between exposure to a combi...
Article
Full-text available
The growing evidence base on the extent of and opportunities to reduce inequities in children's health and development still lacks the specificity to inform clear policy decisions. A new phase of research is needed that builds on contemporary directions in precision medicine to develop precision policy making; with the aim to redress child inequiti...
Preprint
Aim. Children who are developmentally vulnerable have greater health needs. Socioeconomic disadvantage not only increases this risk of developmental vulnerability but can be associated with less access to health services. Our aim was to compare health services use in children aged 4-5 years in Australia with and without developmentally vulnerabilit...
Article
Previous research suggests that gains in positive mental health (often termed flourishing, wellbeing, or competence) is associated with stronger academic achievement. This study examines the relationship between positive mental health at school entry and academic achievement at Grade 3, drawing on a representative sample of Australian children with...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Optimal mental health in early childhood is key to later mental health, physical health, education, and social outcomes; yet, children facing disadvantage tend to have worse mental health and fewer opportunities to develop this foundation. An emerging body of research shows that neighborhoods provide important opportunities for the dev...
Article
Objectives: A comprehensive understanding of how timing of exposure to disadvantage affects long-term developmental risk is needed for greater precision in child health policy. We investigated whether socioeconomic disadvantage in infancy (age 0-1 years) directly affects academic and self-regulation problems in late childhood (age 10-12 years), in...
Chapter
Full-text available
Starting primary school is an important time in the lives of children and their families. This transition can be an exciting but challenging time in a child’s life, with many new expectations and demands. The development of appropriate skills and capabilities in early childhood can help children to negotiate the transition to school and meet these...
Article
Full-text available
There is increasing acknowledgement of the importance of the early years of school in laying the foundations for children’s learning pathways, and interest in the role of mental health in promoting positive early learning experiences. Understanding child mental health requires consideration of both mental health competence and mental health difficu...
Article
Purpose: The Australian educational system is increasingly challenged to meet the needs of multilingual students, who comprise a fifth of the student population. Within the context of a monolingual English curriculum, multilingual children who enter school not yet English proficient may be at risk of experiencing inequitable educational outcomes. M...
Article
Aim Some children's special health‐care needs (SHCN) are formalised at the start of schooling (established SHCN), but a larger proportion start with difficulties that are milder or not yet diagnosed (emerging SHCN). This study explores whether: (i) the prevalence of teacher‐identified SHCN (both overall and according to type of needs) and (ii) dist...
Article
Background: Disadvantage rarely manifests as a single event, but rather is the enduring context in which a child's development unfolds. We aimed to characterize patterns of stability and change in multiple aspects of disadvantage over the childhood period, in order to inform more precise and nuanced policy development. Methods: Participants were...
Article
Background: Understanding the relationship between different aspects of disadvantage over time and domains of child development will facilitate the formulation of more precise policy responses. We examined the association between exposure to aspects of disadvantage over the childhood period (from 0-9 years) and child development at 10-11 years. M...
Article
Background Child health and developmental inequities exist in all countries. Comprehensive and robust concepts of disadvantage are fundamental to growing an evidence base that can reveal the extent of inequities in childhood, and identify modifiable leverage points for change. We conceptualise and test a multidimensional framework of child disadvan...
Article
The purpose of this study was to examine the structural stability of positive development across the 20s using data from one of Australia’s oldest population-based studies of social–emotional development. Positive development was indicated by civic action and engagement, trust and tolerance of others, trust in authorities and organizations, social...
Article
Purpose: Monitoring oral language skills at the population level would provide valuable data to inform policy decisions to better support children’s oral language skills in schools. The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) is a teacher-rated population measure of early child development that includes a rating of children’s oral communication...
Chapter
The emergence of the positive psychology movement has seen a significant redirection of scientific inquiry towards the exploration of optimal human functioning, and interest is now growing in how this knowledge can be applied in real-world settings. Positive Education refers to the application of positive psychology in schools. Social emotional lea...
Article
Objective A fifth of children enter school with special health care needs (SHCN), many of whom have difficulties that are milder or not yet formally diagnosed (emerging SHCN). This study aimed to investigate how differing perceptions of children's emerging SHCN across the family and school contexts relates to service utilization. Methods Sample: T...
Article
Objective: We aimed to determine whether the accumulation of physical, psychosocial and combined health adversities measured at age 8-9 years predicts worsening of academic scores cross-sectionally at 8-9 and longitudinally at 10-11 years. Methods: Design: Longitudinal data from Waves 3 and 4 in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (83%...
Article
Full-text available
The present study examined the longer-term implications of adolescent positive mental health for successful young adult transitions. Positive mental health in adolescence was defined by indicators roughly corresponding to Seligman’s positive psychology PERMA framework (positive emotional experiences, engagement, relationships, purpose, and accompli...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Early childhood education and care provides a powerful opportunity to improve early childhood development and promote stronger educational and occupational pathways for children over the life course (O'Connell et al., 2016). Recent policy developments in Australia have taken significant steps in building on this potential (Australian Government Dep...
Article
Background: Until now, child mental health promotion efforts have focused primarily on reducing the prevalence and severity of problems; yet the absence of mental health problems does not necessarily imply the presence of healthy psychosocial functioning. We aimed to investigate the epidemiology of child mental health competence in a full national...
Article
Pediatric persistent pain is associated with poorer physical and psychosocial functioning in children, as well as immediate and long-term societal costs. Onset typically occurs in early adolescence, suggesting that late childhood is a key window for identifying potential intervention targets before pain symptoms become entrenched. This study used p...
Article
Aim: A fifth of children enter school with special health care needs (SHCN) impacting on their physical, psychosocial or educational development, including many with emerging SHCN who often do not qualify for additional supports. This study aimed to compare the perceptions of parents and teachers on children's emerging SHCN, and explore correlates...
Article
Participation in a preschool program in the year before starting school can promote children’s healthy development, and has the potential to reduce inequities in developmental outcomes for at-risk subpopulations. In Australia, boosting preschool attendance has emerged as a national policy priority. In this paper, we draw on data from the Australian...
Article
A growing body of evidence suggests that engagement with quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs such as preschool can enhance children’s early development. The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) provides a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between ECEC and children’s developmental outcomes in a full populati...
Article
Healthy child development is determined by a combination of physical, social, family, individual, and environmental factors. Thus far, the majority of child development research has focused on the influence of individual, family and school environments, and largely ignored the neighborhood context despite the increasing policy interest. Yet given t...
Article
Evidence suggests that early proficiency in the language of school instruction is an important predictor of academic success for bilingual children. This study investigated whether English-proficiency at 4-5 years of age predicts academic language and literacy skills among Australian bilingual children at 10-11 years of age, as part of the Longitud...
Article
Objective This study capitalizes on developmental data from an Australian population-based birth cohort to identify developmental markers of abnormal eating attitudes and behaviors in adolescence. The aims were twofold: (1) to develop a comprehensive path model identifying infant and childhood developmental correlates of Abnormal Eating Attitudes a...
Article
A significant proportion of school-aged children experience special health care needs (SCHN) and seek care from pediatricians with a wide range of condition types and severity levels. This study examines the learning pathways of children with established (already diagnosed at school entry) and emerging (teacher identified) SHCN from school entry th...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The study used longitudinal data from an Australian population based birth cohort to identify developmental risk factors for eating disorder symptoms in adolescents. The aims were to: (1) develop a confirmatory factor model of risky eating attitudes and behaviours at 15-16 years of age based on the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI), (2) develop a pat...
Article
Growing concern about the global burden of child mental health disorders has generated an increased interest in population-level efforts to improve child mental health. This in turn has led to a shift in emphasis away from treatment of established disorders and towards prevention and promotion. Prevention efforts are able to draw on a substantial e...
Article
Children with special health care needs (SHCN) have or are at increased risk for a chronic condition that necessitates more health and related supports than their peers. While it is generally accepted that these children are at risk for school failure, the mechanisms through which SHCN impact on children's experiences (and therefore opportunities t...
Article
Full-text available
Through social media platforms (e.g., YouTube, Face book), twerking became an online phenomenon in 2013 among young people in many Western countries, but has yet to appear in any scholarly discussions. This paper explore show well psychologists who are working with young people are ‘keeping up’ with a rapidly changing social landscape of popular yo...
Article
The child mental health epidemiology literature focuses almost exclusively on reporting the prevalence and predictors of child mental disorders. However, there is growing recognition of positive mental health or mental health competence as an independent outcome that cannot be inferred from the absence of problems, and requires epidemiological inve...
Article
Children who enter school with limited proficiency in the language of instruction face a range of challenges in negotiating this new context, yet limited data have been available to describe the early developmental outcomes of this subpopulation in the Australian context. The Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) is a teacher-rated checklist th...
Article
Full-text available
The role of Aristotelian eudaimonic (moral) values in healthy psychosocial development is a rapidly growing area of enquiry that crosses the disciplines of philosophy and developmental psychology. The purpose of this study was to examine prospective relationships between adolescence eudaimonic values development and indicators of emotional competen...
Article
While a range of factors have been found to increase the likelihood of alcohol‐related harms among young people, little is known about their relative importance. This article aimed to identify the risks for alcohol‐related harms at an age when alcohol use and problems tend to peak in Australia (19–20 years). A wide range of concurrent and anteceden...
Article
Full-text available
The increasing momentum of the Positive Psychology movement has seen burgeoning research in positive mental health and adaptive functioning; a critical question is how this knowledge can now be applied in real-world settings. Positive Education seeks to combine principles of Positive Psychology with best-practice teaching and with educational parad...
Article
School bonding has been identified as a protective factor for a broad range of adolescent outcomes, and it is thus important to identify factors that foster positive relationships with school. The ecological perspective suggests the importance of both individual and contextual antecedents across developmental periods, yet previous research has tend...