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Qualitative and epidemiological projects - those that explore trends, associations and stories

We are currently conducting a number of qualitative and epidemiological research projects within our research group. These projects involve exploring trends, associations, and stories. Please click on the research project titles below to find out more about each project.

Teacher-student relationships are an important part of any UK classroom, being shown to predict a child’s future mental health, behavioural problems and academic attainment. However, there are few suitable measures to assess the quality of these relationships within the UK context. This study has adapted the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale (STRS; a well validated measure in the US) to make it more suitable for use in UK classrooms. The study aims to assess the reliability of this new, adapted scale to see whether it is a useful way to examine teacher-student relationships in the UK.

If you are a teacher teaching in the UK and would like to help us with this research, please follow this link and complete the questionnaire anonymously.

Main contact: Rachel Hayes

Sydenham’s chorea (SC) is a complex neuropsychiatric condition largely affecting children and adolescents. Symptoms include abnormal body movements (known as chorea), which range from mild to severe and may affect a child’s ability to carry out activities of daily living such as eating and walking. Children with SC also often experience emotional and behavioural symptoms, such as anxiety, obsessions and compulsions, which may be long-lasting and disabling. SC is currently considered a ‘rare disease’ in developed countries; but little is known about how many children nowadays are affected by the disorder, what happens to them after diagnosis, or about their needs. Given the impact on the lives of patients and families, there is a clear need for a study of new cases to fill this gap. In this study we are collecting data on the numbers, characteristics, management and outcomes of new cases of SC in children in the UK and Republic of Ireland, using the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit and the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Surveillance Service. We are working with the Sydenham’s Chorea Association, a family charity, and we hope that our findings will contribute to raising awareness amongst clinicians, speeding up diagnosis, planning effective services, providing better information for families, and ultimately, to improving patient care. We are funded through the British Association of Childhood Disability/RCPCH Paul Polani Prize, and the British Medical Association Helen H Lawson Award.

Main contact: Dr Tamsin Newlove-Delgado 

This project is part of a wider interdisciplinary exploratory programme of research within the Wellcome Centre, led by Professor Anne Barlow at the Law School, which is concerned with relationships throughout the lifespan and their impact on the health of the public. This strand of the project builds on the Shackleton Relationships Project, and focusses on the development of relationships skills in young people to help them to begin and maintain healthy and happy relationships, and to manage relationship breakdown. The project has several elements, including work with stakeholders to understand the current context and implementation status of Relationships and Sex Education nationally and locally, and working with young people to discuss and develop further content for a relationship skills toolkit. We will also explore the desired outcomes of relationship education from the perspectives of young people, and test out ways to measure these.

Main contact: Dr Tamsin Newlove-Delgado 

Researcher: Mr Simon Benham-Clarke

The main aim of this Fellowship is to study trends over time in mental health difficulties in children and young people and whether they are becoming more or less likely to have contact with different services about their mental health. I will use data from the three national population surveys of children and young people from 1999, 2004 and 2017, which used the same measures to assess mental health. This will be the most recent and complete available information about the mental health of children and young people and the services they use. I will use the data to predict how many young people might have a mental health problem in the future, and what services they might need. This project includes collaborators from the Peninsula Collaboration for Health Operational Research and Development, Cardiff University, Cambridge University and Public Health England, and is due to begin in March 2020.

Main contact: Dr Tamsin Newlove-Delgado and Frances Mathews

This project uses data from the CATCh-uS ADHD project to show an educational perspective on the healthcare transitions of young people with ADHD. This is significant because for many young people with ADHD their educational opportunities can be compromised by sub optimal health care transitions.  It seeks to contribute to the understanding of ADHD, a social, emotional and behavioural difficulty, during post-16 education and beyond. Also, to enhance knowledge of the appropriate ways education and health care services could work to prevent these sub optimal health care transitions for young people with ADHD and so improve their educational, and therefore their life, opportunities.

Main contact: Simon Benham-Clarke   




The scale of the societal response to Covid-19 in the UK at present is unprecedented. Children and young people’s daily lives and development are now taking place in a changed context; with school closures, disruption to peer, family and community networks, economic insecurity, and heightened health anxieties, particularly for those living with at-risk adults. Children, young people and families in need are also likely to experience disruption to health and education services, from withdrawal to remote delivery. This project will collect further data from young people and their parents who participated in the Mental Health of Children and Young People Survey 2017 about their experiences of lockdown and education using interviews. A mobile application designed to monitor mood and wellbeing will be available for participants to download. This study is being carried out by the University of Cambridge, University of Exeter and King’s College London. It has been funded by the United Kingdom Research Innovation (UKRI) to develop ideas to address Covid-19.

Further information on this project can be found on the RESHAPE webpage here.

The RESHAPE Newsletter will be sent out quarterly to all participants providing updates on the progress of the study, project findings, interviews with researchers and links to resources to support mental health and wellbeing.

Main contacts: Dr Tamsin Newlove-Delgado and Frances Mathews




This interdisciplinary MRC/GW4 PhD project involves advanced epidemiological and statistical methods. Data from two large birth cohorts will be used to improve understanding of the relationship between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and mental health outcomes (depression and self-harm). This will include investigation of specific ACEs and ACE profiles, the role of timing, chronicity and recency of exposure, and identification of potential mechanisms.

Main contact: Dr Abby Russell

There has been a rise in young people’s mental health conditions in both primary and secondary care, with specialist services struggling to meet demand. While social prescribing initiatives aiming to connect individuals to community-based assets have received increased research and policy attention, schemes have mostly centred on adults. Very little social prescribing evidence, policy or provision has been applied to children and young people (CYP). The CHildren and young people’s Options In the Community for Enhancing wellbeing through Social prescribing (CHOICES) project aims to address this gap, examining the use of social prescribing and community-based wellbeing activities as a potential prevention and early intervention pathway to improving adolescent mental health by:

  • Exploring how social prescribing schemes/pathways operate as a vehicle for assisting CYP to access, connect with and participate in community activities;
  • Understanding how diverse types of community-based support can create the conditions to promote adolescents’ healthy social and emotional development.

The CHOICES project will consist of two work packages, implemented over two years across five to six social prescribing sites for young people aged ten to 24. Findings will support the development of a large follow-on proposal to the NIHR for a hybrid implementation-effectiveness evaluation of social prescribing schemes for CYP in England to prevent and reduce mental health difficulties.

Main contacts:

Professor Vashti Berry  (University of Exeter)

Dr Kerryn Husk (University of Plymouth)


Children & Young People Social Prescribing for Mental Health Project - PenARC (

Our collaborators are:

University of Exeter

University of Plymouth

University of East London

University College London

Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families


Managing young people with ADHD in primary care (MAP) study

   The MAP Study Hands

This project builds on findings of the CATCh-uS study to explore current service provision for young people aged 16-25 years old in primary care (for example via a local GP, nurse, or pharmacist). The project consists of three phases. Phase one is a national survey to map current care pathways and identify differences in provision by geographic location. Phase two consists of interviews and focus groups with young people and health workers to explore their needs for information to provide appropriate care and support. Phase three will consist of workshops with stakeholders (building on findings from phases 1 and 2) to co-produce key messages and guidance for improving primary care support.

Patient Involvement:
This research has been developed in response to identified gaps in services, and requests from people with ADHD. The team includes young people with ADHD whose input will help ensure the research is sensitive and relevant, and an academic GP to ensure identified solutions are deliverable within primary care settings.

Main contact: Anna Price

SPaCE Project – Support for Parent Carers in England

Parent carers of children with special educational needs or disabilities are likely to have high rates of mental health problems and an unmet need for support and treatment. In addition, parent carers are likely to have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. In this NIHR Three Schools-funded project we aim to gain understanding of the prevalence of mental health need, and to map the current pathways to identification, referral, and treatment for parent carers in England.

We will assess prevalence in three complementary analyses. The first will be an examination of mental health problems and changes from pre-pandemic amongst parent carers of children with SEND in the Mental Health of Children and Young People in England (MHCYP) surveys 2017, 2020 and 2021. The second will be an investigation of the mental health of mothers of children with SEND before and during the pandemic using the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). The third will be an examination of the association of factors related to the caring role and mental health utilising survey data from the NIHR-funded Parent Carer Wellbeing Study.

We will map pathways to identification, referral and support for mental health problems in parent carers in England; triangulating reports from parent carers, and professionals in social care, primary care, and children’s services. Qualitative interviews with parent carers will be conducted to learn about their experiences accessing support for their mental health.

We hope that this project will provide information about the need and access to mental health services for parent carers, including the impact of the pandemic and regional variation. We plan for this project to lead to further research to develop and test strategies to overcome barriers to accessing evidence-based mental health treatment for parent carers with mental health problems.

Main Contact: Dr Gretchen Bjornstad


University of Exeter
London School of Economics