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PhD in Psychological Medicine & Clinical Neuroscience - Testing the role of relative age within school year on mental health in children with neurodevelopmental vulnerability

Project Description

In the UK one in eight children and young people experiences a mental health disorder at any given time. Preventing and ameliorating the impact of mental health problems is a priority, however effective prevention requires the identification of potentially modifiable causal risk factors.
The youngest children within a school year are at increased risk for mental health problems, social impairment, and lower educational attainment. Cross-national comparisons (comparing countries with different school entry dates) suggest that associations may reflect causal influences of relative age within school year (as opposed to season-of-birth). Previous studies have studied these effects using whole population approaches. This project will focus on children with early neurodevelopmental vulnerability (defined using neurodevelopmental diagnoses, genetic risk or prematurity of birth). These children are at high risk of depression and other common mental health problems, and we hypothesise that for these groups relative age within school year may be particularly pertinent. The study will use a range of complementary epidemiological designs across multiple existing large datasets in order to test the effects of age within school year on mental health outcomes (symptoms, diagnoses and functional impairment).
The project is important theoretically as it will help us understand the interplay of individual vulnerability and environment in determining pathways of risk and resilience and practically as it will provide the most comprehensive evidence to date on whether children should be rigidly assigned to school entry based on date of birth or if there should be greater flexibility reflecting a child’s developmental maturity.
Prospective students will benefit from working at a world-leading mental health research centre with extensive expertise in developmental psychiatry, genetics and epidemiology. The student will receive training in advanced methodological approaches of wider relevance to the field of developmental psychopathology.

Funding Notes

The studentship is generously funded by the School of Medicine
Full UK/EU tuition fees
Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum
Additional funding is available over the course of the programme and will cover costs such as research consumables and training.
Applicants should possess a minimum of an upper second class Honours degree, master's degree, or equivalent in a relevant subject.
Applicants whose first language is not English are normally expected to meet the minimum University requirements (e.g. 6.5 IELTS)


In order to be considered you must submit a formal application via Cardiff University’s online application service. (To access the system click 'Apply Online' at the bottom of this advert)
There is a box at the top right of the page labelled ‘Apply’, please ensure you select the correct ‘Qualification’ (Doctor of Philosophy), the correct ‘Mode of Study’ (Full Time) and the correct ‘Start Date’ (October 2019). This will take you to the application portal.
Candidates are only permitted to submit one application but may select a maximum of three projects, ranked in order of preference in the ‘Research Proposal’ section of the application. In order to be considered candidates must submit the following information:

• Supporting statement
• CV
• Qualification certificates
• References x 2
• Proof of English language (if applicable)

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