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Dr. Donnelly received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Delaware. She has worked as a research administrator at the University of Dayton since 1982, with the Center for the Study of Family Development, the Social Sciences Research Center and the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community. She also serves as the coordinator of the minor in Family Development, and is on the editorial board for Sociology Inquiry. Dr. Donnelly also serves as a consultant for adolescent pregnancy and pregnancy prevention programs.
The primary focus of Dr. Donnelly's research interests are subcategories of the sociology of families or the sociology of religion. Research on the family has focused on families in economic distress, young families, adolescent risk-taking, child maltreatment, and adoption. Her specific interests in the sociology of religion include the impact of ideology on social change, the religion/family interface, and the organization of the church.
Most of Dr. Donnelly's publications have focused on families, adolescents, and families in distress. Her research has resulted in two books as well as several chapters in edited volumes: The Challenge of Adolescent Health: Views from Catholic Social Teaching and the Social and Medical Sciences (Dennis M. Doyle, Una M. Cadegan, Teresa L. Thompson, Patricia Voydanoff, and Joan McGuinness Wagner, co-authors); Adolescent Sexuality and Childbearing (Patricia Voydanoff, co author). She has also authored or co-authored articles which have appeared in Journal of Marriage and Family, Journal of Family Issues, Family Relations, Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Journal of Family Psychology, Family Perspective, Journal of Adolescent Research, and The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.