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Dr. Catherine Conlon
Assistant Professor, Social Studies


After completing a BA in Law, Sociology and Politics at NUI Galway 1990-1993 I was inspired by Women's Studies scholars there including mentor Anne Byrne and progressed on to Women's Education, Research and Resource Centre (WERRC) in University College Dublin to undertake an MA in Women's Studies 1993-94. My minor dissertation was an analysis of the first 100 Irish women referred by the Irish Family Planning Association to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, an innovative piece early piece of empirical research addressing Irish women's abortion experiences. In 1994 I joined the Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin as part of an interdisciplinary team commissioned by the Minister for Health to carry out a ground breaking, qualitative inquiry into Irish women's responses to pregnancy entitled 'Women and Crisis Pregnancy' (co-authored with Evelyn Mahon and Lucy Dillon, 1996). This project provided a unique insight into the place of social research in the policy making process and forged my commitment to critical policy research. I have since gained extensive experience in policy research both in an academic setting and within the public policy sector. Between 1999 and 2000 I served as Research Officer at the National Council for Ageing and Older People but returned to academia in 2000 in pursuit of the unique conditions for carrying out research it offers. I joined Women's Studies at UCD in 2000 as Research Co-ordinator working with Ursula Barry and Ailbhe Smyth where I secured over 500,000euros of policy research commissions from diverse statutory bodies including the Crisis Pregnancy Agency, the Combat Poverty Agency and the Equality Authority.

In 2006, my captivation with a research project carried out for the Crisis Pregnancy Agency/HSE West concerning women concealing pregnancy led me to embark on a PhD at UCD. I received joint awards from UCD's Ad Astra Research Scholarship (2006-2010) and the Crisis Pregnancy Agency Doctoral Scholarship (2007-2010) for this research and was supervised by Ursula Barry (Women's Studies) and Patricia Kennedy (Social Policy) in this work.

In July 2011 I joined the School of Social Work and Social Policy TCD as Post-doctoral researcher with Prof Virpi Timonen (in collaboration with Prof Tom Sharf and Dr Gemma Carney, NUI Galway) on 'Changing Generations', a study of intergenerational relations in Ireland using Constructivist Grounded Theory. In 2013 I was awarded funding as PI on a research project exploring how parents communicate with their children aged 4-9 years about their bodies, sexuality funded by the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme. In 2015 I was appointed lecturer in the School where I now teach on Principles and Issues in Social Policy, Families and research methodologies and am co-Director of the BA in Sociology and Social Policy. My current research agenda continues to engage with understanding surveillance and regulation of sexual and fertile bodies and women's reproductive practices as well as illuminating resistances within those practices. A collaboration with Dr Evangelia Rigaki, TCD School of Music, and Prof of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University W.N. Herbert to translate writing from my Doctoral thesis into Opera generated highly productive insights on the potential for new modes of analysis through Arts Practice for social policy.

Publications and Further Research Outputs

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Conlon C, Timonen V, Elliott O'Dare C, O'Keeffe S, Foley G. , Confused about theoretical sampling? Engaging theoretical sampling in diverse grounded theory studies, Qualitative Health Research, 2020 Journal Article, 2020 TARA - Full Text

Sampling and conceptualization in Grounded Theory in, editor(s)Margaretha Järvinen Nanna Mik-Meyer , Qualitative analysis - eight approaches , London, Sage, 2020, pp223 - 242, [Catherine Conlon] Book Chapter, 2020

Elliott O'Dare, C., Timonen, V. and Conlon, C., Intergenerational friendships of older adults: Why do we know so little about them?, Ageing & Society, 2019, p1 - 16 Journal Article, 2019

Timonen V, Foley G, Conlon C., Challenges when using Grounded Theory: A pragmatic introduction to doing GT research, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 17, (1), 2018, p1 - 10 Journal Article, 2018 TARA - Full Text DOI

The Fragility of Respectability for Lone Mothers in, editor(s)Quilty, A, Kennedy, S and Conlon, C , Abortion Papers Ireland Vol II, Cork, Attic/Cork University Press, 2015, pp228 - 243, [Conlon, C] Book Chapter, 2015

Conlon, C., Carney, G., Timonen, V. and Scharf, T., 'Emergent Reconstruction' in Grounded Theory: Learning from Team-Based Interview Research, Qualitative Research, 15, (1), 2015, p39 - 56 Journal Article, 2015 TARA - Full Text

Quilty, A, Kennedy, S and Conlon, C, Abortion Papers Ireland Vol II, Cork, Attic/Cork University Press, 2015 Book, 2015

Timonen, V. and Conlon, C., Beyond Mannheim: Conceptualising how people 'talk' and 'do' generations in contemporary society, Advances in Life Course Research, 24, 2015, p1 - 9 Journal Article, 2015 TARA - Full Text

Evangelia Rigaki creator/composer, Libretto: W.N. Herbert, Catherine Conlon, 'The Pregnant Box', Trinity College Dublin, Front Square, 2014, - Exhibition, 2014

Conlon, C., Timonen, V., Scharf, T. and Carney, G., Consumption of care and intergenerational relations in the Irish context, Families, Relationships and Societies, 3, (1), 2014, p139 - 142(4) Journal Article, 2014 TARA - Full Text

Carney, G., Scharf, T., Timonen, V. and Conlon, C., 'Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt': Solidarity between generations in the Irish crisis, Critical Social Policy, 34, 2014, p312 - 332 Journal Article, 2014 TARA - Full Text

Conlon, C., Timonen, V., Carney, G. and Scharf, T., Women (re-)negotiating care across family generations: Intersections of gender and socioeconomic status, Gender & Society, 28, (5), 2014, p729 - 751 Journal Article, 2014 TARA - Full Text

Timonen, Virpi, Conlon, Catherine, Scharf, Thomas and Carney, Gemma, Family, state, class and solidarity: Re-conceptualising intergenerational solidarity through the Grounded Theory approach, European Journal of Ageing, 10, (3), 2013, p171 - 179 Journal Article, 2013 TARA - Full Text

Timonen, V., Scharf, T., Conlon, C. and Carney, G., Intergenerational solidarity and justice in Ireland: Towards a new national dialogue, Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 10, (3), 2012, p317 - 321 Journal Article, 2012

Mahon, E, C.Conlon and L.Dillon , Women and Crisis Pregnancy in Ireland , Dublin , Dept of Health , 1998 Report, 1998

Non-Peer-Reviewed Publications

Scharf, T., Timonen, V., Conlon, C. and Carney, G., Changing Generations - Findings from new research on intergenerational relations in Ireland, Dublin and Galway, Trinity College Dublin and National University of Ireland Galway, April, 2013, 20 pp. Report, 2013 TARA - Full Text

Conlon, C, O'Connor, J and Ni Cathain, S, Attitudes to Fertility, Sexual Health and Motherhood amongst a Sample of Migrant Women Living in Ireland, Dublin, Crisis Pregnancy Agency, 2012 Report, 2012

Mahon, E., Conlon C., Dillon L., Women and Crisis Pregnancy, Dublin, Stationery Office, 1998 Book, 1998

Research Expertise


My research interests encompass: women's fertile bodies; sexual and reproductive health policy and inter-generational relations. My current research project focuses on women's experiences of seeking pregnancy support and abortion care since the introduction of legislation providing for abortion services in Ireland in January 2019. This follows on from research I carried out with Irish women attending abortion services in England in 2004-6 and 1996-8. Together the data generated across these projects constitute a unique and highly valuable data-set capturing women's experiences of seeking abortion care on a transnational basis and within the state. A recently completed project explored parents accounts of talking with their young children (aged 4-9) about sexuality, the body and growing up. This focus on 'sexual socialisation' from parent's perspectives continues my interest in sexual subjectivity, discourses of heterosexuality and sexuality and reproduction as practice. My research inquiries are undertaken under conditions of on-going interrogation of ontological, epistemological and methodological concerns raised by post-structuralist, post-humanist and post-qualitative perspectives. This involves a social research inquiry praxis interrogating what constitutes as knowledge for social science/policy as well as what constitutes as data-for-knowledge. These inquiries generated an interest for me in Research Creation and collaborations with arts practitioners including Dr Evangelia Rigaki, TCD School of Music and film-maker AnneMaree Barry to explore productive modes of trans disciplinary inquiry. My collabortion with Evangelia led to the development of the Opera performance 'The Pregnant Box' as part of TCD's Discover Research Night in 2014. The translation represents an embodied materializing of data that instantised and made visible the inquiry as an affective intervention where the audience is brought into an entangled web of being, meaning and sound that de-centers all subjects.


  • Title
    • Research with Parents
  • Summary
    • Commissioned by the Health Service Executive (HSE) Crisis Pregnancy Programme, this project explores how parents of children aged 4-9 communicate with their children regarding the body, relationships and sexuality. The project employs Constructivist Grounded Theory principles using focus group interviews in a project intended to inform the commissioning body in developing policies and initiatives promoting positive sexual health and well-being.
  • Funding Agency
    • Health Service Executive (HSE) Crisis Pregnancy Programme
  • Date From
    • December 2013
  • Date To
    • April 2015
  • Title
    • Changing Generations
  • Summary
    • Postdoctoral Research Fellow on Changing Generations research project. Atlantic Philanthropies funded inter-Institutional project involving Social Policy and Ageing Research Centre, School of Social Work and Social Policy, TCD (Prof Virpi Timonen (PI) and Dr Catherine Conlon) and Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, NUI Galway (Prof Tom Scharf (PI) and Dr Gemma Carney). The project explored intergenerational solidarity in Ireland through Constructivist Grounded Theory methods using 100 qualitative interviews with women and men aged 18-102. Prof Kathy Charmaz who pioneered the method was International Adviser to the project. I lead authored three of the six peer reviewed publications generated by this project to date.
  • Funding Agency
    • Atlantic Philanthropies
  • Date From
    • July 2011
  • Date To
    • July 2013


Awards and Honours

UCD Ad Astra Doctoral Research Scholarship 2006-2010

Crisis Pregnancy Agency Phd Scholarship 2007-2010


British Sociological Association

Sociological Association of Ireland