Geraldine Downey


My commitment: Contributing to criminal justice reform

When I finished my BS in Dublin, I was working on a project with kids on probation. I became interested in why some kids became violent as adolescents, which led me to look at their families and communities. There was a significant association between kids being abused or neglected, coming from a very disadvantaged area, and ending up as violent juvenile delinquents. I then grew curious about how different forms of maltreatment communicate a sense of rejection.

I started working in Michigan prisons with incarcerated mothers, and many expressed feeling rejected due to family neglect and abuse and social stigma, often linked to poverty. They came from rejected groups and were rejected in their own families, which led me to study rejection sensitivity. I was very interested in what happens when people who are trying to be accepted are met with rejection, and how this can make them feel violent. My work continues to explore and address these dynamics with an increasing focus on reducing violence through fostering resilience.


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