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Our research investigates and addresses the needs of children who show emotional, cognitive, or behavioural difficulties and problems.

Evidence-based assessments

Funded by the Waterloo Foundation, we are conducting a three-year study of the feasibility of working in partnership with families and schools to provide evidence-based assessments of children who may have developmental problems. We intend to help families and those who work with the children at school by providing them with detailed information about the strengths and weaknesses of the child. This report can also inform any later referrals to educational or clinical services.

Specifically, children aged four to seven years are assessed, and we:

  • assess general scholastic abilities such as verbal/nonverbal ability
  • administer cognitive tests of attention, inhibition and working memory
  • provide research-based socio-emotional tests of emotion recognition, empathy, affect processing, and theory of mind.

We also ask the accompanying parent or guardian to complete a clinical interview to identify the main challenges for the child, known as the Development and Wellbeing Assessment. Parents and guardians also complete questionnaires regarding the children’s strengths and difficulties, behaviour, and their development and health.

The outcomes of this detailed assessment will help those who work with these children at school or home select appropriate educational provision and prioritise interventions and inform any later referrals to educational or clinical services.

COVID-19 research

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), we are also researching the social, economic and mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable children and families.

Psychosocial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

Families are experiencing numerous changes in their daily lives, changes leading to mental health and economic challenges. We think the impact on mental health and well-being will be particularly great for families with vulnerable children at risk of significant mental health difficulties, who are also living in difficult circumstances.

We have been following a cohort of vulnerable children and families prior to COVID-19 and have continued looking at the social, economic and mental health effects of the pandemic and associated lockdowns on these children and families.

We want to understand:

  • how children and families are coping
  • what has been difficult
  • what has helped them cope
  • any positive effects they have experienced.


This research was made possible through our close partnership with and support from: