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Brenda Donnelly

Director of Research


College of Arts and Sciences: Fitz Center


Email: Brenda Donnelly
Phone: 937-229-4651


  • Ph.D., Sociology, University of Delaware


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.

Her research interests have ranged from extreme poverty and housing insecurity to ways to help fragile families. Publications have included topics such as adolescent pregnancy and parenting, adoption, economic distress, Christian ideology, and various adolescent health issues. Much of her more recent work focuses on program evaluation for a range of non-profit organizations, schools, churches, and social service agencies in the community.

She has helped to design, track, and evaluate social service programs funded by Federal, State, and local sources. During the last few years, Dr. Donnelly has been the evaluator of Y.E.S.S. AmeriCorps program and Dayton Corps AmeriCorps program. She currently serves as the evaluator of the UD Community Corps program.

Research Interests

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.

Selected Publications

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.