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The impact of male partners on breastfeeding initiation, exclusivity, and continuation: An investigation of new and expectant fathers in the UK

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Applications are invited for a PhD research student on a project assessing the role male partners play in the initiation, exclusivity and continuation of breastfeeding, with the ultimate aim of intervention design. Many women find breastfeeding challenging to sustain beyond the first three postpartum months, with only 0.5% of women maintaining any degree of breastfeeding after their child is one year old in the UK (Victoria et al, 2016). Women rely on a variety of resources to aid and encourage breastfeeding, including partner support. Indeed, partner support has been found to have greater influence on breastfeeding behaviours than formal support interventions provided by healthcare professionals (Mitchell-Box & Braun, 2013).

You will work with new and expectant parents to greater understand the knowledge, understanding and experience of breastfeeding, the role of fathers in this, and how partner support impacts breastfeeding outcomes. A long-term aim of this project is the design and implementation of a support intervention for new and expectant fathers/parents.

Health Psychology explores how psychology, biology, behaviour and social factors are involved in health and illness. It focuses on health promotion and the prevention of disease, as well understanding how people react to, cope with and recover from illness. The University of Buckingham is currently active on research projects covering a wide range of topics within Health Psychology. We collaborate on projects and activities with other universities and organisations, both in the UK and abroad. You would join the Centre for Health and Relationships (CHR) Research Hub (; a thriving research hub focusing upon research in five core areas: Pain, Social Support, Sexual & Reproductive Health, Spinal Cord Injury, and Health in Vulnerable Populations.

Your first supervisor would be Dr Emily Mattacola ( whose research focuses on sexual, reproductive, and women’s health.

In terms of entry requirements, PhD applicants must have achieved a 2:1 or above in a BPS-accredited Psychology degree, or international equivalent (including at least a 2:1 in the dissertation). Candidates are expected to also hold or be reaching the completion of an MSc degree (or equivalent) although this may be waived in the case of an exceptional applicant. The candidate should be enthusiastic about the research area and have excellent written and oral communication skills along with experience of qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

Continuation on the PhD will be subject to suitable progress, assessed after one year.

Funding Notes

Candidates must be self-funded, but we are happy to work with prospective PhD students to apply for external funding. For suitable students, there may be teaching opportunities after progression is confirmed.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview once the application deadline has passed.


Applicants for this opportunity should upload a single document including a covering letter and brief CV, outlining (a) how their previous experience supports their application to pursue a PhD in Psychology and (b) how their experience/interests suit them for this particular study. The names of two academic referees should be included, but would only be approached in the event that the applicant was shortlisted. Please refer to the code: PHD-FATHERS-IMPACT-ON-BREASTFEEDING in your application.

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