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Understanding the mechanisms underpinning poor mental health outcomes in children with reading disorders

   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 2022. 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.

A 3.5-year fully funded studentship open to applicants worldwide starting in October 2022. Funding includes stipend, full fees and a research grant.

More information on the School of Psychology.

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class Honours degree (65 per cent or above) in psychology (or a related discipline) and a Masters degree in a relevant subject with a pass of 65 per cent or above.

English language requirements: An IELTS Academic of 6.5 or above with 6 in each individual category (or equivalent qualification from other agencies).

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the online application portal for Psychology

This project is part of the Faculty-funded studentship scheme and you can express interest in one or two of the projects available via this scheme. When completing your application, in place of a research proposal, please provide a 1-page (maximum) document containing the reference numbers(s), project title(s) and supervisor name(s) of the project or two projects you have selected, together with an explanation of your motivations for wanting to study for a PhD and your reasons for selecting the project(s) you have chosen.

The reference number for this project is FHMS PL - BM - 30.

For those interested in the project described above, we strongly encourage informal enquiries to Dr Debbie Gooch ([Email Address Removed]).

Education (11) Medicine (26) Psychology (31)


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.