Interdisciplinary work

Victoria Armstrong, Art Psychotherapist
Holly Rumble, PhD candidate

I have an established collaboration with art therapist Victoria Gray Armstrong. Vicky joined the lab as a PhD student in 2018, funded by a competitive University of Dundee School of Social Sciences studentship. In the same year practicing artist and art gallery educator Holly Rumble joined the lab on a Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences Collaborative studentship. Together, we are interested in developing an interdisciplinary approach to explore the social impact of early years art, and you can find our more here at our ‘Art at the Start’ webpage.

This exciting project embeds a research team within Dundee Contemporary Arts, in order to study the impact that art participation has upon the social well-being of young children and how shared art experiences may help to build strong attachment relationships. We hope this will have a real impact on the community in which the research is embedded. You can read more about our pilot work here: Gray-Armstrong, V., Dalinkeviciute, E. & Ross, J. (2019). A Dyadic Art Psychotherapy Group for Parents and Infants – Piloting Quantitative Methodologies for Evaluation. International Journal of Art Therapy. There is a growing evidence pool for the efficacy of early years arts interventions which you can read about here: Armstrong, V.G. & Ross, J. (2020). The evidence base for art therapy with parent and infant dyads: A systematic literature review. International Journal of Art Therapy, .

During the Covid 19 pandemic, we have been delighted to benefit from funds from the University’s public engagement seed fund to provide arts based interventions to isolated families. Click here to see our art boxes, and read more about how they were received here: Armstrong, V.G. & Ross, J. (2021). Art boxes supporting parents and infants to share creative interactions at home: an art based response to improve wellbeing during Covid-19 restrictions. Public Health, and here Armstrong, V.G. & Ross, J. (2022). The experiences of parents and infants using a home-based art intervention aimed at improving wellbeing and connectedness in their relationship. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 732562.

Most recently, we have been awarded UKRI research funding to scale up the Art at the Start approach, as part of the UKRI Mobilising Cultural and Natural Assets to Combat Health Inequalities programme, in partnership with NHS perinatal and infant mental health contacts. We have used these funds to embed art therapists within four gallery spaces across Scotland for 1 year, providing a targeted art therapy intervention for parent-infant dyads, as well as developing a programme of public engagement. Watch this space for the outcomes!

Beyond Art at the Start, I also collaborate with psycholinguist Dr. Alissa Melinger . Our first collaborative project investigated the cognitive implications of speaking two dialects. The project received start up funding from a Nuffleld Social Sciences grant in 2011 (Nuffield Social Sciences Small Grant, £14,045, “Growing up Scottish: The cognitive implications of speaking two regional dialects of English”). Supported by a comprehensive review of previous developmental literature, the resulting paper challenged the claim that childhood bilingualism comes with a robust inhibition advantage. For further detail see Ross, J. & Melinger, A. (2016).Bilingual advantage, bidialectal advantage or neither?: Comparing performance across three tests of executive function in middle childhood. Developmental Science, doi: 10.1111/desc.12405. Alissa and I are currently working on a new project exploring the idea that in bicultural situations switching between dialects or languages might entail switching perspectives on self.