In Wales, 109 per 10,000 children are ‘looked after’ because their birth family are unable to care for them. Most will have experienced abuse or neglect in the birth family environment, placing them at greater risk for developing mental health problems that can endure into later life (Wales Centre for Public Policy, 2021).
Understanding the processes that might underpin a child’s mental health problems can provide avenues for intervention to offset risk trajectories before disorder may emerge (DeJong, 2010). Emotion recognition is fundamental to social relationships, and impairment in emotion recognition is a transdiagnostic risk factor for a range of psychiatric disorders (Burley et al., 2021). Children adopted from public care show impairments in emotion recognition that are linked to their mental health problems (Paine et al., 2021). With their likelihood of experiencing early life adversity and instability, looked after children represent a vulnerable group. The overarching questions that will be asked in this project are:
1) Do looked after children show impairments in emotion recognition?
2) Does emotion recognition training improve looked after children’s emotion recognition?
3) Can we detect improvements in children’s mental health and social communication 6 months after training?
This studentship will afford the opportunity for the candidate to develop skills in data collection with children and families, observational data coding, longitudinal data analysis, academic presentations and preparation of work for peer review and potential publication.
The student will be based at the Cardiff University Centre for Human Developmental Science (CUCHDS), where the Neurodevelopment Assessment Unit and Wales Adoption Cohort Study teams are based. With supervision from academics across research groups, this studentship will afford opportunities for knowledge exchange regarding methodological approaches (i.e., transdiagnostic research, intervention, and observational studies) brought together in this project. This studentship will also present opportunities for networking and disseminating findings amongst academics and practitioners based at CUCHDS and non-academic stakeholders.
To be competitive, you will have a first class/good upper second degree, or a distinction/merit at masters’ level, in a relevant subject, with a good knowledge of developmental psychopathology. You will need to prove your ability to carry out research (you will need to present some research you are doing or have done in the interview, e.g., in an undergraduate, masters or summer project). Strong candidates will have experience conducting research with children aged 4-8 years old and working in school settings. You will be able work in a team, to learn fast, understand complex problems and apply practical solutions. You will need to have good numerical and communication skills.
Studentship Awards commence in October 2022 and will cover your tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant (currently £15,609 p.a. for 2021/22 for full-time students, updated each year); and includes access to an additional Research Training Support Grant (RTSG), though an element of this latter fund may be ‘pooled’ and require separate applications from 2022 onwards.
There are other opportunities and benefits available to studentship holders, including an overseas fieldwork allowance (if applicable), internship opportunities, overseas institutional visits and other small grants.
This studentship is available as either a 1+3 or +3 basis. A 1+3 studentship provides funding for four years (or part-time equivalent), completing a research training Masters in the 1st year, followed by 3 years research funding for a PhD. A +3 studentship provides funding for the three years PhD research study only (or part-time equivalent).
ESRC studentships are highly competitive, candidates should have an excellent academic background in the social sciences, holding a 1st or strong upper 2nd class degree; applications from those also holding a relevant research training Masters degree (or an equivalent background in research training) will be considered for a +3 award.
How to apply:
You can apply online - consideration is automatic on applying for a PhD in Psychology, with an October 2022 start date (programme code RFPDPSYA).
Please use our online application service at
and specify in the funding section that you wish to be considered for ESRC funding.
Please specify that you are applying for this particular project and the supervisor.
Applications must include
• a covering letter of up to two pages
• details of academic/professional qualifications
• if relevant, proof of English Language Competency (see institutional requirements for entry)
• two academic references
• a cv (two pages maximum)
• a research proposal of up to 1000 words (plus bibliographic references)
Application deadline: 4th February 2022 at 12 noon