van der Riet, Mary

van der Riet, Mary

Associate Professor

Discipline Psychology
Contact Number 033-260-6163
Campus Pietermaritzburg Campus
Office Address Room 38, Psychology, Golf Road,
Last Updated 2 years ago
  • Degrees Held
  • BA(WITS),
  • Higher
    Diploma in Education (HDE, WITS),
  • Honours Psychology (Rhodes),
  • Masters
  • Phd (UKZN)

Research Interests:

  • HIV and AIDS, youth and risk; HIV stigma; gender and sexual and reproductive health; participatory research and intervention approaches; the use of cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) and developmental work interventions (DWR/CL) in researching and changing behaviour; conducting research in resource poor contexts;
  • (Click on the following for her Researchgate)

Teaching Interests:

  • Contextualising child development; qualitative research design and practice; participatory research theory and practice; the psychology of change and transformation; Vygotsky and socio cultural approaches in psychology; gender, HIV and sexuality

Publications / Selected Publications

Journal Articles

  • Van der Riet, M., Corfe, W. & Kubeka, C. (2019). Bad daughter, good mother, good student. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling (Published online 9 January 2019)
  • Van der Riet, M., Sofika, D., Akhurst, J. & Daniels, H. (2019). Young people’s investments in sexual relationships: a different prioritisation of self in the negotiation of safe sex practices in South Africa. Sexualities, 22 (7-8), 1035-1052.
  • Sofika, D. & Van der Riet, M. (2016). ‘I can tell that he’s serious because uyandicheckha‘: the reproduction of sexual vulnerability through scripted sexual practices. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 19, 308-322.
  • Hutton, N., Mitchell, C. & Van der Riet, M. (2016). Assessing an isiZulu questionnaire with educators in primary schools in Pietermaritzburg to establish a baseline knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorder BMC Pediatrics, 16, 185-192, DOI 10.1186/s12887-016-0721-8
  • Akhurst, J., Solomon, V., Mitchell, C. & Van der Riet, M. (2016). Embedding community-based service learning into Psychology degrees at UKZN, South Africa. Educational Research for Social Change, 5, 136-150,
  • Van der Riet, M. (2016). Developmental Work Research: A theory-informed method for collective analysis and transformation. Mind Culture and Activity (24), 85-88.
  • Van der Riet, M. & Nicholson, T. (2014). Racing risk, gendering responsibility: a qualitative study of how South African students talk about sexual risk and responsibility, African Journal of AIDS Research, 13, 361-369.  doi: 10.2989/16085906.2014.985235.
  • Van der Riet, M., Akhurst, J. & Wilbraham, L. (2019). Promoting students’ sexual and reproductive health in peer-led programmes at two south African universities: emerging tensions and dilemmas. South African Journal of Higher Education, 33 (2), 249-267
  • Van der Riet, M. (2012). Working with historicity: tracing shifts in contraceptive use in the activity system of sex over time.PINS, 2012, 43, 23-39
  • Goodall, J.; Van der Riet, M.; O’Neill, V. & Killian, B. (2011). HIV and AIDS related stigma: a necessary protective mechanism for children in high exposure areas? South African Journal of Psychology, 41 (2), 187-195.
  • Van der Riet, M. &Boettiger, M. (2009). Shifting research dynamics: addressing power and maximizing participation through participatory research techniques in participatory research. South African Journal of Psychology 39 (1), 1-18.
  • Van der Riet, M. (2008). Participatory Research and the philosophy of Social Science: Beyond the moral imperative. Qualitative Inquiry, 14 (3), 546-565.
  • Van der Riet, M. (2008).Diagramming as mediational means: Vygotskian theory and participatory research.South African Journal of Psychology, 38 (3), 455-465.
  • Killian, B.; Van der Riet, M.; Hough, A; O’Neill, V., &Zondi, T. (2008).Children’s loss of agency under extreme adversity.Journal of Psychology in Africa, 18 (3), 403-312.
  • Van Maltzahn, R. & Van der Riet, M. (2006). A critical reflection on participatory methods as an alternative mode of enquiry.New Voices in Psychology.2 (1), 108-128.
  • Van der Riet, M; Hough, A. & Killian, B. (2005).Mapping HIV/AIDS as a barrier to education: a reflection on the methodological and ethical challenges to child participation, Journal of Education, 35, 75-98.
  • Van der Riet, M. &Knoetze, J. (2004).Help seeking patterns in urban and rural youth in two South African provinces: a socio-contextual view. School Psychology International, 25 (2) 223-240
  • Van der Riet, M., Dison, A. & Quinn, L. (1998).Conceptual development through process-writing in a Psychology II course.South African Journal of Higher Education 12 (1) 220-226
  • Van der Riet, M., Gilbert, A., Kelly, K., and Fischer, S. (1996) Academic development: in pursuit of academic, vocational and professional literacy in Academic Development Programme (Eds.) Discourse: The Journal of the Rhodes University Academic Development Programme 7 (1) May 1996

Chapters in Books

  • Akhurst, J., Van der Riet, M., & Sofika, D. (2018). Living in a rural community and researching HIV and AIDS: Positionality and ethics. In C. Macleod, J. Marx, P. Mnyaka, & G. Trehanne (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Ethics in Critical Research (pp. 211-244). Switzerland: Springer
  • Van der Riet, M. (2012). Participatory research and the philosophy of social science: beyond the moral imperative. In J. Hughes (Ed.), Sage Visual Methods, (vol 1) Principles, issues, debates and controversies in visual research (pp. 289-306). London: Sage.
  • Van der Riet, M. & Durrheim, K. (2006). Putting design into practice: Writing and evaluating research proposals. In M. Terre Blanche, K. Durrheim & D. Painter (Eds.), Research in practice: Applied methods for the social sciences (2nd ed). (pp. 80-111). Cape Town: UCT Press.
  • Kelly, K. & Van der Riet, M. (2001). Participatory research in community settings: processes, methods and challenges. In M. Seedat, N. Duncan, & S. Lazarus (Eds.). Theory, method and practice in community psychology: South African and other perspectives (pp. 159-188). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Other publications

  • Audio recordings on Activity Theory on VIMEO for an international online course: An introduction to cultural historical activity theory Part 1 (, and Using activity theory to understand human behaviour Part 2 (
  • Van der Riet, M., Hough, A., Killian, B., O’Neill, V. & Ram, A. (2006). ‘We struggle to learn’ in Mapping barriers to basic education in the context of HIV and AIDS: a report on research conducted in the Richmond District, KwaZulu-Natal. Pietermaritzburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal. Commissioned by: School of Education and Development, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.
  • Kelly, K., Ntlabati, P., Oyosi, S., Van der Riet, M., & Parker, W. (2002). Making HIV/AIDS our problem: Young people and the development challenge in South Africa. Pretoria: Save the Children and CADRE Commissioned by Save the Children
  • Van der Riet, M. (2000). Communicating HIV/AIDS: an audit of provincial responses to HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Commissioned by Beyond Awareness Campaign, HIV/AIDS and STD Directorate, Department of Health, South Africa

Community In

  • As part of our Masters in Research Psychology programme we conduct practical participatory research for local CBO’s and NGO’s.

Teaching Expertise

  • Contextualising child development, qualitative research design and practice; participatory research theory and practice; the psychology of change and transformation; Sociocultural approaches in psychology (Vygotsky), cultural-historical activity theory.

Student Supervision (Honours, Masters, PhD …)

  • Dr van der Riet has supervised many honours students, 33 Masters Psychology students and 6 Doctoral students to completion.


  • Dr van der Riet has been involved in research projects and received research grants from the CoE/NRF (2016-2017); the NRF Thuthuka fund (2011-2013);  UKZN College of Humanities 2012), abd the NRF  (2005-2006, and 2002).