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Centre for Family Research


Read on to find out more about the studies currently being undertaken by the Centre for Family Research.


Children of the 2020s: A nationally representative birth cohort study.  

Grant holder : Professor Pasco Fearon 

Sponsor: Department for Education | Period: October 2020 - April 2026 | Award: £6,200,000 

The Children of the 2020s Study is an 8500-strong nationally representative birth cohort for England, the first of its kind in over a decade. It is focused on understanding the early-in-life determinants of children’s school achievement, mental health and wellbeing.

After a year of intensive preparation, 8560 families were recruited and assessed between June and September, 2022, with a field team of nearly 300 Ipsos researchers working around the country.

This study formed part of a review of early life studies by the Royal Foundation, as part of their Shaping Us campaign..

For more information about the study, please click here


RE-SET: Developing a school-based, transdiagnostic, preventative intervention for adolescent mental health. 

Co-PI : Professor Pasco Fearon 

Sponsor: MRC-UKRI | Period: September 2021 - August 2025 | Award: £2,800,000

The RE-SET trial is an individually randomised trial of a new mental health prevention programme for teenagers. 

Early adolescence is a key period for prevention, because over a comparatively short space of time we see steep rises in mental health difficulties, peaking at around ages 15-16 years. The promise of prevention at this time is that it might be possible to reduce the rise in onsets of mental health difficulties and/or to prevent exacerbation of existing mental health problems in a temporally targeted way.

One of the challenges with prevention though is that prior to a mental health condition developing, you don’t know which disorder you ought to be trying to prevent. For that reason, we adopted what is called a ‘transdiagnostic approach’, which targets core mechanisms underpinning a range of mental health difficulties. To do this, we teamed up with experts in the cognitive neuroscience of emotion and clinical experts in young people’s social relationships to develop a new ‘hybrid’ intervention.

This new intervention uses cognitive training to develop emotional processing skills, and integrates it into a group intervention, so that the young people can learn about and develop their skills around the intimate connection between our emotions and our relationships with others. We have worked with lots of young people and a youth theatre company to help us develop the programme and make it engaging and inclusive. The intervention has since been piloted in two schools and the main trial, involving 540 young people across 9 schools, launched in January 2023.

For more information about the study, please click here.


The COSI study: a multi-site RCT to explore the clinical and cost effectiveness of the Circle of Security Intervention for mothers in perinatal mental health services. 

Grant holder: Professor Peter Fonagy; Co-Investigator: Professor Pasco Fearon 

Sponsor: NIHR HTA Programme | Period: 1st January 2021 - 31st December 2024 | Award: £2,050,000 


The Circle of Security Intervention (COSI) Study is a four-year randomised controlled trial, seeking to explore the clinical and cost effectiveness of a 10-session, group-based intervention called Circle of Security-Parenting (COS-P) for women in NHS perinatal mental health services (PMHS).

COS-P is an intervention designed to help parents manage their difficult emotions and understand the impact of these on the parent-child relationship. The trial will involve nine PMHS across England and will compare COS-P to treatment as usual with a sample of 369 participants.

For more information about the study, please click here.


SUNRISE Cluster RCT: Scaling up Nurturing Care, a Radio Intervention to Stimulate Early child development in Burkina Faso.  

Grant holder: Professor Betty Kirkwood; Co-Investigator: Professor Pasco Fearon 

Sponsor: Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award | Period: July 2019 – July 2024 | Award: £5,300,000

The SUNRISE trial is a nation-wide cluster RCT of an intensive radio campaign that uses behaviour change principles and intervention techniques from Early Child Development programmes to change behaviour and norms relating to early caregiving in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso was chosen as t has a unique radio broadcasting landscape that allows randomisation of broadcasting content to geographically non-overlapping regions of the country – the perfect set up for a clustered RCT.

Over the summer of 2021, local field teams were trained in the data collection processes for the first phases of the study and recruited 12,000 mums and children for a baseline survey. By autumn 2021, broadcasts began in half of our 15 cluster sites. The team are now following up an evaluation cohort of 1500 babies born 3-6 months after the campaign began, looking at their language, cognitive and socio-emotional development, as well as changes in family care practices and parenting, all the way through to just shy of their third birthdays. Alongside this, the team has been doing a lot of fascinating qualitative work with local commnunities, helping us and our Burkinabe colleagues to develop the broadcast content and ensure it is culturally appropriate and resonating in the way we hope, as well as capturing the learning about how the intervention works, so that we can think about how to translate it to other contexts and media in the future.

For more information about the study, please click here.

School Readiness: the 'Ready Or Not' studies

(Hong Kong): Socio-Cognitive Skills, Social Relationships and Wellbeing in Hong Kong Children in the Early School Years |

(UK): Connecting viewpoints on child and family wellbeing, and identifying commonalities across diverse groups.

Grant holder: Professor Claire Hughes  

(Hong Kong): Sponsor: Hong Kong WEMP Education Foundation Ltd | Period: 1st August 2021 – 31st July 2024 | Award: £604,750

(UK): Sponsor: ESRC | Period: 1st March 2021 – 31st August 2023 | Award: £329,500 at Cambridge (total grant value £566,300) 

The Ready Or Not studies are running across the UK and Hong Kong, and investigate children's transitions from Early Years/Kindergarten into formal schooling. While the transition from Nursery to Reception has been well-studied, much less is known about the transition from Reception to Year 1 – even though this often requires adapting to multiple changes, both in the classroom and in the playground. 

These studies experienced significant disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, and were moved to a fully remote (online and postal) online data-collection format. Somehow, despite the challenges, the research teams have excelled, successfully recruiting from schools, finding ways of engaging families with no keyboards or insufficient WiFi, and innovative solutions to limited resources. The UK arm of the data collection is now complete, and the Hong Kong team are currently conducting the wave of follow-up visits with  their participating families. 

The Ready Or Not studies represent a very special ‘pandemic cohort’ of children, and the work is sure to bear fruit in documenting the various ways families have soldiered on and found new sources of resilience during this difficult time. Although we had to abandon our efforts to conduct school-based observations of dyadic peer play, we made the decision to finish the online sessions with 5-minutes of parent-child play using the online version of the Etch-a-Sketch game (ESO). This activity has created a rich video-based resource for developmental research. Digital devices are now well and truly embedded within family life, and yet very few observational studies of parent-child interaction focus on screen-based play. The novelty of ESO also creates a level playing field – and our video-based coding highlights striking individual differences in the quality of parent-child interactions in this context. 

For more information about the studies, please see the study websites here (UK) and here (Hong Kong)


Early Life Cohort-feasibility study 

Co-Director: Professor Pasco Fearon 

Sponsor: ESRC | Period: May 2021 - April 2024 | Award: £4,500,000

This is a large-scale feasibility study for a future UK-wide birth cohort study, known as the Early Life Cohort study.

As part of the project, the team undertook a national consultation with academics, policy makers and practitioners about their data needs from a future study of this nature, and also did a lot of qualitative work with families from all four nations to understand how they view a study like this. We were interested in their views on a range of topics, including privacy, sharing of health records and other administrative data, and our branding and inclusivity plan. Data collection for the main feasibility cohort has been taking place in 2023, and, all going well, we hope a mainstage cohort of up to 30,000 families will launch in 2025. 

This study formed part of a review of early life studies by the Royal Foundation, as part of their Shaping Us campaign..

For more information about the study, please click here.


Caregiver influences on child psychological adjustment following trauma; a longitudinal study of a high adversity South African population 

Grant holder: Professor Sarah Halligan; Co-Investigator: Professor Pasco Fearon 

Sponsor: ESRC | Period: 1st April 2021 – 30 September 2023 | Award: £610,916 

This study investigates the psychosocial factors that contribute to PTSD in a group of children (aged 8-16 years) from a deprived community in South Africa, in which rates of serious trauma exposure are extremely high.

The study aims to measure how caregivers provide support children who have experienced trauma, examining whether there are particular elements of caregiver support in the aftermath of trauma that are associated with higher or lower levels of symptoms in children further down the line. In addition to helping us to understand what kind of social support is best for children who experience trauma, our project will provide much needed information about the development of PTSD in children from high adversity, low income communities.