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Social networks after childhood depression diagnosis: A qualitative study exploring child and sibling social networks and the co-production of a framework for intervention

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

About the Project

Personal support networks, the range of active and significant ties that are important to an individual and through which support is provided, have been shown to be important in the management of chronic physical and mental health conditions in adult populations. However, the role of social networks for children with a diagnosis of depression and their siblings is relatively underexplored.

This study will aim to develop an in-depth understanding of the impact of childhood depression diagnosis on the child’s and sibling’s social networks and identify any potential synergies or inter-relationships. This prospective study has three phases: (1) Review, (2) Explore and (3) Co-develop:

(1) Review: Existing literature will be systematically reviewed to examine the extent and quality of current evidence about the social networks of children with depression and their siblings.  The range of existing interventions available to support social interaction for these groups will also be identified. Existing evidence will be synthesised and any knowledge gaps identified.

(2) Examine: In-depth virtual semi-structured interviews will be undertaken separately with 15-20 children with depression and their siblings to examine the content and quality of social networks and identify potential synergies. Interviews will also explore preferences for support content, development and format. Focus groups will also be held with parents and mental health professionals to elicit perspectives on the impact of depression diagnosis on social networks, priorities for intervention development and barriers and enablers to implementation. 

(3) Co-develop: Using data from phases 1 and 2 co-production workshops will be held with multiple stakeholders  to co-develop a framework for a future intervention to improve the social networks of children with depression and their siblings.

The study will be guided by a patient and public advisory group which will be established at study outset and will meet bi-annually over the course of the PHD.


Candidates are expected to hold a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area/subject and hold (or be about to receive) a relevant masters level qualification. Candidates with an interest in qualitative methodology, the experience of childhood depression or patient and public involvement are encouraged to apply.

This project can be offered on a 3-4 year basis depending on level of experience, you are advised to make direct contact with the supervisor about this.

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select PhD Psychology.

For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

This project is also available as a Distance Learning option. This innovative route of undertaking a postgraduate programme through Distance Learning maximises flexibility whilst providing a world-class education. It allows postgraduate researchers with the desire, potential, time and resources to schedule their study pattern around obligations such as employment, family or other commitments. To be considered for this option please select DL as mode of attendance on the online application form.

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a NMSW non-standard Band fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (View Website). For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (View Website).
Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website View Website


Nevard I, Green C, Bell V, Gellatly J, Brooks H, Bee P. (In press). Conceptualising the social networks of vulnerable children and young people: A systematic review and narrative synthesis. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.
Brooks HL, Bee P, Lovell K, Rogers A. (2020) Negotiating support from relationships and resources: a longitudinal study examining the role of personal support networks in the management of severe and enduring mental health problems. BMC Psychiatry, 20:50.
Brooks HL, Lovell K, Bee P, Fraser C, Molloy C, Rogers A. (2019) Implementing an intervention designed to enhance service user involvement in mental health care planning: A qualitative process evaluation. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 54:221-233
Bee P, Pedley R, Bower P, Kirk S, Prymachuk S and Richardson G. (2018). Self-care support for children and adolescents with long-term conditions: the REfOCUS evidence synthesis. Health Services and Research Delivery Research. 6, 3.
Gellatly J, Bee P, Gega L, Bower P et al., (2018). A community-based intervention (Young SMILES) to improve the health-related quality of life of children and young people or parents with serious mental illness: randomised feasibility protocol. Trials, 19:1.

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