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University of Exeter Medical School

Professor Helen Dodd

Professor Helen Dodd

 South Cloisters 2.05b


South Cloisters, University of Exeter, St Luke's Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK


Helen Dodd is a Professor of Child Psychology at Exeter Medical School. Within the medical school she sits in the Department of Public Health and Sports Science where she is Deputy Head of Department.

Helen is an expert in child mental health with a particular interest in the development of childhood anxiety disorders and the role of play in the prevention of mental health. Her research has been funded by the ESRC, Royal Society, British Academy, Kavli Foundation and the Australian Research Council. She has received awards for her research from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) and the British Psychological Society (BPS). In 2021 Helen was awarded the Margaret Donaldson Award from the BPS for her outstanding contribution to developmental psychology. Most recently her public health research was recognised by the Faculty of Public Health who elected her to fellowship of the Faculty, through distinction.

Helen held an ESRC Future Research Leaders grant between 2014 and 2019 and currently holds a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, which funds a program of work examining the relationship between children's adventurous play and mental health. Helen regularly writes about children’s play and contributes to public discussions about the role of play in supporting children’s mental health. During the pandemic Helen played a leading role in the @playfirstUK group, who campaigned for children's play to be prioritised and for a #SummerOfPlay. Helen was elected to the board of Play England in 2022.

Alongside her work on adventurous play, Helen collaborates on a number of other projects which focus on better understanding pathways to anxiety in young children and how to support children and families to prevent mental health problems. She has expertise in longitudinal data analysis, eyetracking, observational research, experimental design and developmental psychology more broadly


  • PhD Cognitive Science
  • BSc Applied Psychology
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Practice
  • Fellowship through distinction; Faculty of Public Health

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Research interests

Helen’s primary research focus is on understanding risk factors for child anxiety and developing approaches to prevent child anxiety. Her current research strongly focuses on children’s play and links between play and mental health. She holds a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship which funds a programme of work examining adventurous play as a mechanism for decreasing children’s anxiety risk.

Helen has worked extensively on longitudinal research examining the role of child temperament, family environment and child cognition in predicting children’s anxiety and continues to collaborate on a range of projects within this overarching research focus, including further projects on children’s play and longitudinal and intervention research focused on anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty.

In addition, Helen collaborates on projects examining the impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health and large-scale projects focused on improving well-being within cities.

Research projects

  • Adventurous play as a mechanism for reducing children’s anxiety (UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship)
  • Online parent intervention to prevent anxiety disorders in at-risk children (
  • Intolerance of Uncertainty and child anxiety; toward a better understanding.  
  • Pandemic Play Archive: an archive of children’s play during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • IN-HABIT (Inclusive health and wellbeing in small and medium size cities).
  • COVID-19: Supporting Parents, Adolescents and Children during Epidemics (Co-SPACE).

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Journal articles

Reardon T, Dodd H, Hill C, Jasper B, Lawrence PJ, Morgan F, Rapee RM, Ukoumunne O, Violato M, Davey E, et al (In Press). Minimising Young Children’s Anxiety through Schools (MY-CATS): Protocol for a cluster randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of an online parent-led intervention compared with usual school practice for young children identified as at-risk for anxiety disorders. Trials
Jones B, Reardon T, Creswell C, Dodd H, Hill C, Jasper B, Lawrence P, Morgan F, Rapee R, Violato M, et al (In Press). Minimising Young Children’s Anxiety through Schools (MY-CATS): Statistical Analysis Plan for a Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of an online parent-led intervention compared with usual school practice for young children identified as at-risk for anxiety disorders. Trials
Oliver BE, Nesbit RJ, McCloy R, Harvey K, Dodd HF (2023). Adventurous play for a healthy childhood: Facilitators and barriers identified by parents in Britain. Social Science & Medicine, 323, 115828-115828.
Nesbit RJ, Harvey K, Parveen S, Dodd HF (2023). Adventurous play in schools: the parent perspective. Children & Society, 37(6), 2102-2122. Abstract.
Rayson H, Ryan ZJ, Dodd HF (2023). Behavioural inhibition and early neural processing of happy and angry faces interact to predict anxiety: a longitudinal ERP study. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 60
Skripkauskaite S, Creswell C, Shum A, Pearcey S, Lawrence P, Dodd H, Waite P (2023). Changes in UK parental mental health symptoms over 10 months of the COVID‐19 pandemic. JCPP Advances, 3(2). Abstract.
Lawrence PJ, Skripkauskaite S, Shum A, Waite P, Dodd H (2023). Changes in UK pre‐schooler's mental health symptoms over the first year of the COVID‐19 pandemic: Data from Co‐SPYCE study. JCPP Advances, 3(2). Abstract.
Dodd HF, Nesbit RJ, FitzGibbon L (2023). Child's Play: Examining the Association Between Time Spent Playing and Child Mental Health. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev, 54(6), 1678-1686. Abstract.  Author URL.
Morriss J, Goh K, Hirsch CR, Dodd HF (2023). Intolerance of uncertainty heightens negative emotional states and dampens positive emotional states. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 14
Rodriguez-Sobstel C, Wake S, Dodd H, McSorley E, van Reekum CM, Morriss J (2023). Shifty Eyes: the Impact of Intolerance of Uncertainty on Gaze Behaviour During Threat Conditioning. Collabra: Psychology, 9(1). Abstract.
Nesbit R, FitzGibbon L, Dodd H (2023). Street play, wellbeing and mental health from childhood into adulthood. European Psychiatry, 66(Suppl 1), s991-s991.
Rendall S, Dodd H, Harvey K (2022). Controlling feeding practices moderate the relationship between emotionality and food fussiness in young children. Appetite, 178 Abstract.  Author URL.
Dodd HF, FitzGibbon L, Watson BE, Nesbit RJ (2022). Correction: Dodd et al. Children's Play and Independent Mobility in 2020: Results from the British Children's Play Survey. Int. J. Environ. Hum. Health 2021, 18, 4334. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 19(15). Abstract.  Author URL.
Wake S, Dodd H, Morriss J (2022). Intolerance of uncertainty and novelty facilitated extinction: the impact of reinforcement schedule. Br J Psychol, 113(2), 353-369. Abstract.  Author URL.
Vogt J, Dodd HF, Parker A, Duffield F, Sakaki M (2022). Now you see it, now you don’t: Relevance of threat enhances social anxiety-linked attentional bias to angry faces, but relevance of neutral information attenuates it. PLOS ONE, 17(7).
Oliver BE, Nesbit RJ, McCloy R, Harvey K, Dodd HF (2022). Parent perceived barriers and facilitators of children’s adventurous play in Britain: a framework analysis. BMC Public Health, 22(1). Abstract.
Ooi J, Dodd HF, Meiser-Stedman R, Hudson JL, Bridges J, Pass L (2022). The efficacy of interventions for behaviourally inhibited preschool-aged children: a meta-analysis. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 88, 102559-102559.
Morriss J, Tupitsa E, Dodd HF, Hirsch CR (2022). Uncertainty Makes Me Emotional: Uncertainty as an Elicitor and Modulator of Emotional States. Frontiers in Psychology, 13
Dodd HF, Lester KJ (2021). Adventurous Play as a Mechanism for Reducing Risk for Childhood Anxiety: a Conceptual Model. CLINICAL CHILD AND FAMILY PSYCHOLOGY REVIEW, 24(1), 164-181. Author URL.
Dodd HF, Fitzgibbon L, Watson BE, Nesbit RJ (2021). Children’s play and independent mobility in 2020: Results from the british children’s play survey. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(8). Abstract.
Dodd HF, Nesbit RJ, Maratchi LR (2021). Development and evaluation of a new measure of children’s play: the Children’s Play Scale (CPS). BMC Public Health, 21(1). Abstract.
Osmanağaoğlu N, Creswell C, Dodd HF (2021). Development of a behavioural measure of Intolerance of Uncertainty in preadolescent children: Adaptation of the beads task. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 72 Abstract.
Osmanağaoğlu N, Creswell C, Snuggs S, Stuijfzand S, Dodd HF (2021). Evaluating the psychometric properties of the intolerance of uncertainty scale for children in a preadolescent sample. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 77 Abstract.
Wake S, Morriss J, Johnstone T, van Reekum CM, Dodd H (2021). Intolerance of uncertainty, and not social anxiety, is associated with compromised extinction of social threat. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 139 Abstract.
Nesbit RJ, Bagnall CL, Harvey K, Dodd HF (2021). Perceived Barriers and Facilitators of Adventurous Play in Schools: a Qualitative Systematic Review. CHILDREN-BASEL, 8(8). Author URL.
Pearcey S, Gordon K, Chakrabarti B, Dodd H, Halldorsson B, Creswell C (2021). Research Review: the relationship between social anxiety and social cognition in children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JOURNAL OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHIATRY, 62(7), 805-821. Author URL.
Doyle FL, Dodd HF, Morris TM, Lazarus RS, Byrow Y, Hudson JL (2021). Targeting risk factors for inhibited preschool children: an anxiety prevention program. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 147 Abstract.
Wake S, van Reekum CM, Dodd H (2021). The effect of social anxiety on the acquisition and extinction of low-cost avoidance. Behav Res Ther, 146 Abstract.  Author URL.
Stuijfzand S, Stuijfzand B, Reynolds S, Dodd H (2020). Anxiety-Related Attention Bias in Four- to Eight-Year-Olds: an Eye-Tracking Study. Behav Sci (Basel), 10(12). Abstract.  Author URL.
Rendall S, Dodd H, Harvey K (2020). Behavioural validation of a parent-report measure of child food fussiness. APPETITE, 154 Author URL.
Morriss J, Wake S, Lindner M, McSorley E, Dodd H (2020). How many times do I need to see to believe? the impact of intolerance of uncertainty and exposure experience on safety-learning and retention in young adults. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 153, 8-17. Abstract.
Littler JAB, Haffey A, Wake S, Dodd HF (2020). The Effect of Anonymous Computer-Mediated Communication on State Anxiety: an Experimental Study. CYBERPSYCHOLOGY BEHAVIOR AND SOCIAL NETWORKING, 23(12), 823-828. Author URL.
Wake S, van Reekum CM, Dodd H, Morriss J (2020). The Impact of Intolerance of Uncertainty and Cognitive Behavioural Instructions on Safety Learning. COGNITIVE THERAPY AND RESEARCH, 44(5), 931-942. Author URL.
Dodd HF, Rayson H, Ryan Z, Bishop C, Parsons S, Stuijfzand B (2020). Trajectories of Anxiety When Children Start School: the Role of Behavioral Inhibition and Attention Bias to Angry and Happy Faces. JOURNAL OF ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY, 129(7), 701-712. Author URL.
Morriss J, Biagi N, Dodd H (2020). Your guess is as good as mine: a registered report assessing physiological markers of fear and anxiety to the unknown in individuals with varying levels of intolerance of uncertainty. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY, 156, 93-104. Author URL.
Hudson JL, Murayama K, Meteyard L, Morris T, Dodd HF (2019). Early Childhood Predictors of Anxiety in Early Adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 47(7), 1121-1133. Abstract.
Stuijfzand S, Chakrabarti B, Reynolds S, Dodd HF (2019). Look out captain, I hear an ambiguous alien! a study of interpretation bias and anxiety in young children. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 121 Abstract.
Pearcey S, Alkozei A, Chakrabarti B, Dodd H, Murayama K, Stuijfzand S, Creswell C (2018). Do clinically anxious children cluster according to their expression of factors that maintain child anxiety?. JOURNAL OF AFFECTIVE DISORDERS, 229, 469-476. Author URL.
Osmanağaoğlu N, Creswell C, Dodd HF (2018). Intolerance of Uncertainty, anxiety, and worry in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 225, 80-90. Abstract.
Stuijfzand S, Creswell C, Field AP, Pearcey S, Dodd H (2018). Research Review: is anxiety associated with negative interpretations of ambiguity in children and adolescents? a systematic review and meta-analysis. JOURNAL OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHIATRY, 59(11), 1127-1142. Author URL.
Majdandžić M, Lazarus RS, Oort FJ, van der Sluis C, Dodd HF, Morris TM, de Vente W, Byrow Y, Hudson JL, Bögels SM, et al (2018). The Structure of Challenging Parenting Behavior and Associations with Anxiety in Dutch and Australian Children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 47(2), 282-295. Abstract.
Rendall S, Harvey K, Dodd H (2018). The influence of child temperament, maternal core beliefs, maternal self-esteem and maternal psychopathologic symptoms on the development of fussy eating. Appetite, 123
Dodd HF, Vogt J, Turkileri N, Notebaert L (2017). Task relevance of emotional information affects anxiety-linked attention bias in visual search. BIOLOGICAL PSYCHOLOGY, 122, 13-20. Author URL.
Pass L, Mastroyannopoulou K, Coker S, Murray L, Dodd H (2017). Verbal Information Transfer in Real-Life: When Mothers Worry About Their Child Starting School. JOURNAL OF CHILD AND FAMILY STUDIES, 26(8), 2324-2334. Author URL.
Stuijfzand S, Dodd HF (2017). Young children have social worries too: Validation of a brief parent report measure of social worries in children aged 4–8 years. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 50, 87-93. Abstract.
McGrath LM, Oates JM, Dai YG, Dodd HF, Waxler J, Clements CC, Weill S, Hoffnagle A, Anderson E, MacRae R, et al (2016). Attention Bias to Emotional Faces Varies by IQ and Anxiety in Williams Syndrome. JOURNAL OF AUTISM AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS, 46(6), 2174-2185. Author URL.
Ooi J, Dodd HF, Stuijfzand BG, Walsh J, Broeren S (2016). Do you think I should be scared? the effect of peer discussion on children's fears. BEHAVIOUR RESEARCH AND THERAPY, 87, 23-33. Author URL.
Lazarus RS, Dodd HE, Majdandzic M, de Ventec W, Morris T, Byrow Y, Bogels SM, Hudson JL (2016). The relationship between challenging parenting behaviour and childhood anxiety disorders. JOURNAL OF AFFECTIVE DISORDERS, 190, 784-791. Author URL.
Dodd HF, Hudson JL, Williams T, Morris T, Lazarus RS, Byrow Y (2015). Anxiety and Attentional Bias in Preschool-Aged Children: an Eyetracking Study. JOURNAL OF ABNORMAL CHILD PSYCHOLOGY, 43(6), 1055-1065. Author URL.
Dodd HF, Stuijfzand S, Morris T, Hudson JL (2015). Child Anxiety and the Processing of Ambiguity. COGNITIVE THERAPY AND RESEARCH, 39(5), 669-677. Author URL.
Ooi J, Dodd HF, Walsh J (2015). Erratum to: Shared Cognition in Childhood Anxiety: Interpretation Bias in Preschool Children and Their Parents (J Child Fam Stud, 10.1007/s10826-015-0143-5). Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(11).
Ooi J, Dodd HF, Walsh J (2015). Shared Cognition in Childhood Anxiety: Interpretation Bias in Preschool Children and Their Parents. JOURNAL OF CHILD AND FAMILY STUDIES, 24(11), 3413-3422. Author URL.
Van Bergen P, Graham LJ, Sweller N, Dodd HF (2015). The psychology of containment: (mis) representing emotional and behavioural difficulties in Australian schools. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 20(1), 64-81. Abstract.
Broeren S, Newall C, Dodd HF, Locker R, Hudson JL (2014). Longitudinal investigation of the role of temperament and stressful life events in childhood anxiety. DEVELOPMENT AND PSYCHOPATHOLOGY, 26(2), 437-449. Author URL.
Morris TM, Hudson JL, Dodd HF (2014). Risk-taking and inhibitory control in behaviourally inhibited and disinhibited preschool children. PERSONALITY AND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES, 71, 113-117. Author URL.
Willis ML, Dodd HF, Palermo R (2013). Correction: the Relationship between Anxiety and the Social Judgements of Approachability and Trustworthiness. PLOS ONE, 8(10).
Ng AS, Dodd HF, Gamble AL, Hudson JL (2013). The Relationship Between Parent and Child Dysfunctional Beliefs About Sleep and Child Sleep. JOURNAL OF CHILD AND FAMILY STUDIES, 22(6), 827-835. Author URL.
Willis ML, Dodd HF, Palermo R (2013). The Relationship between Anxiety and the Social Judgements of Approachability and Trustworthiness. PLOS ONE, 8(10). Author URL.
Hudson JL, Dodd HF (2012). Informing Early Intervention: Preschool Predictors of Anxiety Disorders in Middle Childhood. PLOS ONE, 7(8). Author URL.
Dodd HF, Hudson JL, Morris TM, Wise CK (2012). Interpretation Bias in Preschool Children at Risk for Anxiety: a Prospective Study. JOURNAL OF ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY, 121(1), 28-38. Author URL.
Porter M, Dodd H (2011). A Longitudinal Study of Cognitive Abilities in Williams Syndrome. DEVELOPMENTAL NEUROPSYCHOLOGY, 36(2), 255-272. Author URL.
Dodd HF, Hudson JL, Lyneham HJ, Wuthrich VM, Morris T, Monier L (2011). Biased Self-Perception of Social Skills in Anxious Children: the Role of State Anxiety. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 2(4), 571-585. Abstract.
Dodd HF, Porter MA (2011). Interpretation of Ambiguous Situations: Evidence for a Dissociation Between Social and Physical Threat in Williams Syndrome. JOURNAL OF AUTISM AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS, 41(3), 266-274. Author URL.
Hudsona JL, Dodd HF (2011). Introduction to Special Issue on Social Phobia in Children. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 2(4), 449-453.
Dodd HF, Hudson JL (2011). Parent-child CBT reduces anxiety disorders among children aged 4-7 years. BMJ Mental Health, 14(1).
Hudson JL, Dodd HF, Lyneham HJ, Bovopoulous N (2011). Temperament and Family Environment in the Development of Anxiety Disorder: Two-Year Follow-up. JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRY, 50(12), 1255-1264. Author URL.
Hudson JL, Dodd HF, Bovopoulos N (2011). Temperament, Family Environment and Anxiety in Preschool Children. JOURNAL OF ABNORMAL CHILD PSYCHOLOGY, 39(7), 939-951. Author URL.
Dodd HF, Porter MA (2011). There's that scary picture: Attention bias to threatening scenes in Williams syndrome. NEUROPSYCHOLOGIA, 49(2), 247-253. Author URL.
Dodd HF, Porter MA (2010). I see happy people: Attention bias towards happy but not angry facial expressions in Williams syndrome. COGNITIVE NEUROPSYCHIATRY, 15(6), 549-567. Author URL.
Dodd HF, Porter MA, Peters GL, Rapee RM (2010). Social approach in pre-school children with Williams syndrome: the role of the face. JOURNAL OF INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY RESEARCH, 54, 194-203. Author URL.
Dodd HF, Schniering CA, Porter MA (2009). Beyond Behaviour: is Social Anxiety Low in Williams Syndrome?. JOURNAL OF AUTISM AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS, 39(12), 1673-1681. Author URL.
Dodd HF, Porter MA (2009). Psychopathology in williams syndrome: the effect of individual differences across the life span. Journal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 2(2), 89-109. Abstract.


Dodd HF, Hudson JL, Rapee RM (2017). Temperament in Youth Internalizing Disorders. In  (Ed) Treatments for Psychological Problems and Syndromes, Wiley, 504-524.
Newall C, Dodd HF, Hudson JL, Rapee RM (2013). Treating broad-based anxiety problems. In  (Ed) Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Children and Families, Third Edition, 222-234.  Abstract.


Dodd H, Skripkauskaite S, Shum A, Waite P, Lawrence P (2023). Changes in UK Pre-Schooler's Mental Health Symptoms over the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic: data from Co-SPYCE Study.  Author URL.
Dai Y, McGrath LM, Waxler J, Oates J, Clements C, Weill S, Hoffnagle A, Anderson E, MacRae R, Mullett J, et al (2014). Cognitive Contributions to Anxiety in Williams Syndrome.  Author URL.

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External Engagement and Impact

Awards and distinctions

  • Elected to the Faculty of Public Health through distinction 2023
  • Elected to board of Play England 2022
  • Awarded the Margaret Donaldson Memorial Prize (2021) for outstanding contribution to Developmental Psychology within 10 years of qualifying.
  • Nominee for the Kathy Sylva ‘Rising Star’ Award 2020, Association of Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH).
  • Invited member of the inaugural Foundation for Science and Technology Future Leaders Programme (2019-2020). See
  • British Psychology Society Postdoctoral Study Visit Award (2011)
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), Career Development Award (2011)

Invited lectures

  • Helen regularly delivers public lectures and is an invited speaker for a range of events, including events for parents, the play sector, schools and educators. She also regularly gives academic talks as an invited speaker.

Journal and book series Editorships and Editorial board membership

Editorial responsibilities:

  • Consulting Editor, Child Development
  • Editorial Board, Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
  • Associate Editorial Board, Behaviour Research and Therapy

Media Coverage

  • Helen has been interviewed for television a number of times and her work has been featured on Victoria Derbyshire, BBC news, Sky News and Politics South.
  • Helen is regularly quoted in news outlets internationally, including The Times, The Washington Post, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Fox News, Yahoo! News, MSN News, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Conversation and The Evening Standard. Helen’s work creating a Pandemic Play archive was featured on the front page of The Sunday Times in December 2020.
  • Helen has recorded a range of podcasts including one for Nature Magazine and one for the Black Dog Institute. 
  • Helen is regularly interviewed on the radio ad has been an invited guest on a number of radio shows including the All in The Mind Christmas special on children’s Play and BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’.

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