UCL Psychology and Language Sciences

Prof Jean-Baptiste Pingault

Prof Jean-Baptiste Pingault

Professor of Developmental Psychopathology and Genetics

Clinical, Edu & Hlth Psychology

Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences

Joined UCL
15th Oct 2013

Research summary

My research aims to delineate causal pathways from early risk factors to the development of mental health difficulties in childhood and adolescence. To this end, my research group and I study the influences of genetic and environmental early risk factors (e.g. bullying victimisation, and family adversity) on a variety of mental health outcomes. We adopt an interdisciplinary approach building on several disciplines including developmental psychopathology, epidemiological psychiatry and biology. In particular, we implement innovative methods for causal inference in big datasets, building on statistical innovation and genetically informative designs. In collaboration with national and international colleagues, we then seek to further characterize these causal pathways by investigating possible underlying biological mechanisms (e.g. cognitive profiles, epigenetics)

Teaching summary

I am pleased to consider applications from prospective PhD students.

I currently teach on the following undergraduate and graduate courses at UCL:

PSYC2209 Developmental Psychology (BSc)

PSYC3110 Topics in Developmental Psychology (BSc)

PSYC3307 Genes and Behaviour

Research Methods in Psychology (MSc)

I am also leading the module Research Skills, in the MSc Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology, at UCL and the Ana Freud Centre


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 at the Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology at University College London, and I became an Associate Professor in 2018.  My research group, C-MAP, focuses on causal inference in mental health research, using advanced genetically informed designs and methodological innovation to delineate causal developmental pathways. During this period, I have published a review on 'Using genetic data to strengthen causal inference in observational research' in Nature Reviews Genetics and my research group has published many empirical studies applying such methods to better understand the aetiology of early mental health problems. I have also been awarded several awards including a MQ Transforming Mental Health Fellowship and the Medical Research Foundation Emerging Leaders Prize (1st) in Adolescent Mental Health Research.