My research combines statistical innovation with large longitudinal studies spanning birth to adulthood to better understand processes and mechanisms underlying behavioural development. For example, I have used advanced longitudinal modelling to characterize behavioural developmental patterns (e.g. of physical aggression, impulsivity) to then examine their genetic/environmental underpinnings and establish their long-term outcomes (e.g. criminality, substance use). A current focus of my research is the use of causal inference designs. Discriminating causal from spurious risk factors in observational research is challenging due to environmental and genetic confounding. I use family-based designs (e.g. twins) and innovative methods using DNA information (e.g. Mendelian Randomisation) to identify causal risk factors for psychopathology.
I received a multidisciplinary education in Social Sciences, Developmental Psychology and Statistics in Paris. For my PhD, focusing on children’s interactions with peers, mothers and caregivers, I was awarded a Lavoisier Brazil Doctoral Grant from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs to fund my field work in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
After completing my PhD in 2009, I got a post-doctoral fellowship from the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada to pursue my research in Montreal. Between 2009 and 2013, I worked with Professors Richard Tremblay and Sylvana Côté at the inter-collegiate Research Group on Psychosocial Maladjustment (GRIP), based at Sainte Justine mother-child hospital and at the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Montreal. During this period, I also spent one year back in Paris (2012) in the “Mental health and public health” INSERM Unit 1178 [National Institute for Health and Medical Research], working with Professor Bruno Falissard. During these four years, I have published a series of studies showing that developmental trajectories of childhood behavioural problems (e.g. hyperactivity, physical aggression) specifically predict long-term risk behaviours, including substance abuse and violent criminality in early adulthood. I was awarded the Star Student-Researcher prize from the Quebec Health Research Fund for an article in Molecular Psychiatry, uncovering a specific predictive link between inattentive symptoms in childhood and nicotine dependence in early adulthood.
I then received a Marie Curie Fellowship (2013-2015) from the European Commission to work at the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences at University College London and at the MRC Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King's College, with Professor Essi Viding and Robert Plomin. During this period, I have used genetically informative designs to examine the genetic and environmental influences on the developmental course of behavioural problems during childhood and adolescence. The resulting articles suggest that a set of “developmental genes” specifically influence the long-term developmental course of behavioural problems. I have also focused on advanced genetically informative designs helping to discriminate causal from spurious risk factors in observational research. For example, I recently reviewed studies applying Mendelian randomisation techniques (i.e. the use of genetic variants as instruments to probe the causal role of risk factors) to identify causal risk factors for psychopathology-related outcomes.
In 2015, I was appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology at University College London. My laboratory focuses on causal inference in psychopathology research, using advanced genetically informative designs and methodological innovation to shed a light on causal developmental pathways.