Skip to content

Children’s Psychological Disorders (MSc)

This programme will equip you with a theoretical understanding of the psychological factors that cause and maintain emotional and behavioural problems in children.

This MSc in Children's Psychological Disorders will equip you with a thorough theoretical understanding of the psychological factors that cause and maintain emotional and behavioural problems in children.

Taught by leading international experts, you will discover and research how both mental health difficulties and neurodevelopmental conditions, which include anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism and conduct disorder, emerge in childhood.  You will gain an in-depth knowledge of how these conditions can be best assessed; enabling you to subsequently inform intervention and advise the best course of treatment.

Located at our dedicated Centre for Human Development Science (CUCHDS), this programme will also equip you with the skills, knowledge and experience to pursue a rewarding career in child neuro – development, clinical child psychology or educational psychology.

You will undergo a range of professional training in emotional, cognitive and neurodevelopmental assessments for children, classification systems of childhood disorders and in observational coding of child behaviour and parent-child interaction.

Research training also forms a key focus of this programme, and it is designed to strengthen your credentials for entry to a PhD in developmental psychopathology, or to doctoral training programmes in Clinical or Educational Psychology.

In addition to providing training in basic research, the course aims to integrate research perspectives from clinical and educational psychology.

Distinctive features

  • Training in emotional, cognitive and neurodevelopmental assessments for children.
  • Training in the use of classification systems of childhood disorders.
  • Training in observational coding of child behaviour and parent-child interaction.
  • Becoming familiar with the foundations of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
  • Understanding of how to choose and apply the most appropriate intervention strategy for different problem areas.
  • Effective communication using a range of oral and written formats.
  • Based in the Cardiff University Centre for Human Developmental Science (CUCHDS), which locates a Neurodevelopment Assessment Unit (NDAU), which offers families assistance with problems relating to child development and parenting.
  • Taught by researchers who are recognised internationally for their scientific excellence.
  • Using a scientist-practitioner model to offer a programme that bridges science and practice.

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2020
Duration1 year

Admissions criteria

Applicants need a 1st or high 2.1 in Psychology or a Psychology related subject (or equivalent). Applicants will need to be able to handle scientific concepts, be numerate and have excellent writing skills. A-levels in biology, chemistry, mathematics, English or history at grade A are desired. This is a highly selective course and interviews will be held in April and again in June or July if all places have not been filled. Early applications are recommended. A maximum of 30 students are accepted each year.

Typical IELTS Offer: 7.5 overall and a minimum of 6.5 in the subskills”.


Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements

Teaching is organised across three semesters: autumn, spring and summer. Semesters 1 and 2 each have three 20-credit modules, involving lectures, seminars and workshops; in Semester 3 you will do a research placement that results in a research project. Each module lasts 10-weeks and is assessed by means of formative and summative assessments.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.

Semester 1:

1. Origins of Developmental Psychopathology (20 credits)
2. Introduction to Clinical and Educational Psychology (20 credits)
3. PG research design and statistics, and child assessment methods (20 credits)

Semester 2:

1. Neurodevelopmental Disorders 1: Neurobiology (20 credits)
2. Neurodevelopmental Disorders 2: Cognition and emotion (20 credits)
3. Child assessment and intervention (20 credits)

Dissertation Stage:
Dissertation: Research project (60 credits).

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

The School's educational philosophy rests upon the precept that good research benefits good teaching. All teaching and learning is research-led. A diverse range of teaching and learning styles are used throughout the MSc. You will attend lectures, participate in seminars, journal clubs and tutorials, and gain experience in child assessment methods. You will play a leading role in your own training. The School facilitates learning by identifying appropriate reading and organising practical classes.

Workshops and Lab-based practical classes

You will have the opportunity for a significant amount of practical experience (data acquisition and analysis) in various workshops/demonstrations in Semesters 1 and 2, including clinical interviewing, eye-tracking, observational coding, executive functioning and verbal ability testing. The practical skills gained will cement your understanding of the theory presented in the lectures and offer a basis for the research work in Semester 3.


Lectures highlight not only what is known, but also what is not known. You are encouraged to think of what needs to be done to advance knowledge. To this end the lectures are of 2 hours’ length to allow more complex arguments to be examined, and to encourage more time for discussion and questioning between students and lecturers.


Students undertake a major research project during Semester 3. You are encouraged to identify yourself a supervisor with whom you would like to work on your project and to approach that supervisor to develop and plan a project that is of mutual interest. Tutors can help you identify an appropriate supervisor if necessary.

CPD Seminars

Nationally renowned researchers, clinicians and educational psychologists will give seminars on a monthly basis. This exposes you to cutting edge research and/or relevant practical issues, and helps to prepare you for your future research and work. You are encouraged to attend other seminars around the University that are relevant to your course and general learning. Many of these are advertised through the University’s Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute. (

School Seminars

As well as the monthly CPD Seminars, the School holds regular research seminars throughout the year. These seminars are presented by visiting speakers and members of staff and allow you to keep up to date with the latest research ideas. You are strongly encouraged to attend these seminars.

How will I be supported?

You will be allocated a personal tutor, who will be one of the module leaders on the course. This tutor will be available to provide pastoral care and general advice and will also be responsible for monitoring your academic progress. The tutor can help in assigning potential supervisors for the Semester 3 research project.  The project supervisor will schedule regular meetings to discuss progress and provide advice and guidance


Feedback will be provided via tutorials, practical’s and coursework comment/mark sheets. There will also be regular meetings with personal tutors.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed in a variety of ways both to inform learning (formative) and to assess learning (summative). Six modules to the value of 20 credits each are studied in Semester 1 and 2. Five of these modules include written examinations (essay format); all modules are also assessed via essays and/or practical assignments. In Semester 3 the Research Project (60 credits) is assessed via a journal article style dissertation (100%).

For the programme as a whole, the assessments include examinations, written assignments, oral presentations, and the dissertation. In addition, during the year you build up a reflective portfolio in which you show evidence of your knowledge of and training experience in a range of approaches and assessments. This assessment strategy aims to ensure that you demonstrate a ‘reciprocal critical-exploratory’ approach in which you demonstrate your ability to use the skills and knowledge acquired to inform your practical work and also use your experience in practice to critically evaluate your knowledge.  

What skills will I practise and develop?

You will acquire and develop a range of valuable skills, both those that are discipline specific and more generic 'employability skills'. Through the programme you will develop research- and clinically-based assessment skills, and will be presented with a number of opportunities to extend your communication and presentation skills, both oral and written. Other specific skills that will be acquired, are the ability to design an empirical study in children, to collect, analyse and interpret a range of complex data. A number of valuable research or practical skills will also be developed through completion of the Research Project.

What are the learning outcomes of this course/programme?

Knowledge & Understanding:

On successful completion of the Programme you will have gained:

  • A systematic understanding of knowledge and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of psychology, research on developmental psychopathology, and/or area of professional practice (clinical and educational psychology);
  • A comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to own research or advanced scholarship.

Intellectual Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • Originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline;
  • Conceptual understanding (1) to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline, and (2) to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.

Professional Practical Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  •     Effective communication and listening;
  •     Team working via participation in day-to-day activities of the course and your research group;
  •     Readiness to improve own performance based on reflective learning occurring across the year and in relation to practical activities.

Transferable/Key Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:

  •     Exercise initiative and personal responsibility;
  •     Make decisions in complex and unpredictable situations;
  •     Learn independently to support your continued professional development.

  • Research degree (PhD) and academic career in developmental psychopathology.
  • A career in translational research in practice or in applied research centres, in mental health or educational services.
  • Work in clinical or educational practice as an assistant psychologist.
  • The qualification will be helpful for those who will later want to apply for a DClinPsych or DEdPsych degree.
  • Work in a variety of professional fields involving work with children and young people, such as education, health and social care, family policy, youth work, justice, international development and charity work.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2020/21)

Fees for entry 2020/21 are not yet available.

Students from outside the EU (2020/21)

Fees for entry 2020/21 are not yet available.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?


The interview will focus on the need for students on this course to have a variety of skills, including knowledge of psychological theory, interest in and experience with how children think and behave, and ability to relate to a wide range of people including children, patients and colleagues. You'll need to be patient and sympathetic. 

The programme is particularly suitable for students with a strong academic background in psychology and related disciplines, and who have an interest in children’s (neuro-) developmental disorders and wish to progress to a PhD or Clinical or Educational Doctorate. Applicants are required to have some relevant research experience and familiarity in particular with empirical research (e.g. data collection, analysis and writing up) is important. The programme is also suitable for those who have already qualified as clinical or educational professionals, or behavioural therapists, but wish to supplement and update their existing experience and knowledge.

In Semester 3 you do a research placement in the CUCHDS or a local authority or a NHS trust that maintains a training relationship with our doctoral programmes. You will do a 4-month long research project during which time you will independently complete a piece of academic work. You will write up a review of the literature relevant to the research topic, and collect and analyse data. Your assigned project work in the CUCHDS or the field will be supervised on site by a researcher/postdoc or a clinical/educational supervisor, and your analysis and report-writing work will be co-supervised by an assigned academic supervisor. A report of how you functioned in the research setting will also be obtained from the location supervisor.