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Understanding the mechanisms underpinning poor mental health outcomes in children with reading disorder (Ref FHMS - FF - 03 PSY)

   Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences

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  Dr Debbie Gooch  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a fully funded (fees + stipend) PhD in Psychology to begin in September 2023. The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Debbie Gooch & Dr Emily Farran on research which aims to understand the mechanisms which underpin the association between reading disorders and poor social emotional mental health outcomes in children and young people. The successful candidate will join the DEVELOP and CoGDeV research group at the University of Surrey and will collaborate with stakeholders at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity (HADC) and researchers within the clinical psychology team at Surrey.

Reading disorders (RD) have been associated with internalising problems (anxiety and depression) in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies (Francis et al. 2019; Carroll et al. 2005). However, little research has explored why RD is associated with poor wellbeing (Boyes et al, 2016). Attempts to address this question have been limited in the mechanisms considered and the reliability/validity of measures. This PhD project will address this important question by investigating potential mechanisms (risk/protective factors) that may underpin the association between RD and internalising problems using both qualitative and quantitative methods. 

The aims of this PhD studentship are:

  1. To investigate the association between RD and mental health outcomes, specifically internalising symptoms (anxiety and depression).
  2. To understand the mechanisms (risk and/or protective factors) that mediate the association between RDs and internalising symptoms.

The successful candidate will use a range of research methods, including systematic review and meta-analysis, focus groups and informant questionnaire surveys, as well as both qualitative and quantitative analysis techniques. They will communicate with families and stakeholders as well as the academic community, via conference presentations and publications, to ensure the effective dissemination of findings.

Principle Supervisor - Dr Debbie Gooch

DG extensive experience working with children with language/reading disorders, and an interest in the impact these disorders have on social emotional mental health and academic outcomes.. Her research incorporates a range of methodologies relevant to this proposal: online surveys, standardised assessments, research with children, cross-sectional and longitudinal design, structural equation modelling and logistic regression. DG has disseminated high quality research in peer-reviewed journals and at conferences. DG will take responsibility for day-to-day supervision, progression and feedback.

 [Email Address Removed]

Entry requirements

Open to UK and international students with the project starting in October 2023. Note that a maximum of 30% of the studentships will be offered to international students.

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our PhD programme

How to apply

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the relevant principal supervisor(s) to discuss the project(s) before submitting their application.

Applications should be submitted via the [ programme page (N.B. Please select the October 2023 start date when applying).

You may opt to apply for a single project or for 2 of these Faculty-funded studentship projects.

When completing your application, in place of a research proposal, please provide a brief motivational document (1 page maximum) which specifies:

  • the reference numbers(s) for the project or two projects you are applying for
  • the project title(s) and principal supervisor name(s)
  • if applying for two projects, please also indicate your order of preference for the projects
  • an explanation of your motivations for wanting to study for a PhD
  • an explanation of your reasons for selecting the project(s) you have chosen

Additionally, to complete a full application, you MUST also email a copy of your CV and 1-page motivational document directly to the relevant project principal supervisor of each project you apply for. Due to short turnaround times for applicant shortlisting, failure to do this may mean that your application is not considered.

Please note that online interviews for shortlisted applicants are expected to take place during the week commencing 30th January.

Funding Notes

Funding is for 3.5 years and includes UKRI-aligned stipend (£17,668 pa for 2022-23), approved University of Surrey fees and a research budget. This studentship is funded by Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey.


Boyes ME, Leitao S, Claessen M, Badcock NA, Nayton M. (2016) Why Are Reading Difficulties Associated with Mental Health Problems? Dyslexia. 22(3):263–6
Carroll JM, Maughan B, Goodman R, Meltzer H. (2005). Literacy difficulties and psychiatric disorders: evidence for comorbidity. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 46(5):524–32.
Francis DA, Caruana N, Hudson JL, & McArthur GM (2019). The association between poor reading and internalising problems: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Psychol Rev. 67:45–60.
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