We are currently investigating novel ways of making existing psychological assessment measures digital and web-based. At CATS we have our own bespoke psychological assessment measures which have been developed in a research context to investigate lifespan vulnerability and adversity. In partnership with Prof Mike Smith at Youth in Mind we are now developing online versions of our assessment tools, which will be able deliver some of the benefits of interview approaches, taking less time and resource. Read more.
This 12-month project is a partnership between the IoM government Safeguarding Board, St Christopher’s Fellowship and the Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS) Middlesex University. It is aimed at identfiying and assessing neglect in children and families. Members of the CATS team are training a group of 16-20 multi agency practitioners in the use and range of two assessment tools to look at neglect, care and parenting. Evaluation will focus on the training, impact on assessment and care planning, and implementation. This will be via questionnaires and focus groups.
Working together CATs team and St. Christopher’s have developed an innovative model of child-care that supports the charity’s mission to build brighter futures for children and young people.The model is based on attachment principles and uses a ‘Q Pack Assessment’ and Attachment Style Interview (ASI) developed from CATs research measures alongside other standardised assessment tools. Mainstreaming of these assessments allows St. Christopher’s to establish the best package of support to meet the needs of children and young people in their care and to monitor the impact of their interventions. These tools run in parallel with standards set and agreed as part of both the Isle of Man data set and the National Indicators set out by the UK government.
Q Packs: The Q pack is a package of self-report tools covering symptoms, attachment insecurity and life events which is given out to each young person when they arrive at the residential home and repeated 6 monthly. The questionnaires are completed by young people and their carers to provide a rounded view of the young person’s vulnerability, life events and disorder.
Attachment Style Interview Assessments: The ASI provides an assessment of a young person’s relationship with their parents, siblings and also up to three close others. This can determine how the child or young person forms and maintains relationships, which in turn forms the basis for the level of security or insecurity of attachment style. The type of predominant insecure style is then determined – whether ‘anxious’ (enmeshed or fearful), ‘avoidant’ (angry-dismissive or withdrawn) or ‘dual’/’disorganized’, based on a mixed style.
Dissemination: The findings of the joint work using the Q Pack Assessment and ASI are regularly disseminated on a national level at conferences, at an international level for academics and in practice journals for commissioners and practitioners.
We are delighted to confirm our project work with Action for Children. Following a successful pilot, we are extending the Q pack assessment of children and young people in foster care to establish their risk/resilience in relation to stressful events, attachment style and clinical difficulties or wellbeing. This will complement the ongoing Therapeutic Fostering intervention which has been active in the agency for some time and will allow for both baseline and follow-up assessment of the children/ young people to chart change. We will aid with providing feedback for foster carers and social workers and will train key stakeholders in use of the measures.
University is a time of transition; students assume more independence over their life choices, often moving away from home for the first time and leaving behind established support networks. There is a large research literature that demonstrates how life events such as these can lead to troubles adjusting and potentially problems such as depression (Andrews & Wilding, 2004). It is also evident that students currently have high rates of depressive symptoms with student mental health a topic for national policy (National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (Great Britain), 2011). This has attendant effects for universities, as depression and poorer wellbeing is associated with increased drop out and lower satisfaction with university services. Despite this, students often do not seek help because of stigma, self-stigma and vulnerable relating styles (e.g. avoidant attachment style) (Macaskill & Denovan, 2013).
The Department of Psychology is developing two related initiatives to understand the stresses that students face and provide interventions to increase resilience and emotional wellbeing while they study. This will also serve to increase student engagement or inform lack of engagement. This project aims to develop these initiatives to provide screening tools for well being needs and increase integration of well-being education/support into the curriculum.
Antonia Bifulco (PI), Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies CATS, Dept of Psychology
David Westley, Dep of Psychology
Stephen Nunn, Dep of Psychology
Deborah Rodriguez, Dep of Psychology
Ruth Spence, Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies, Psychology
Past projects – highlights
The Centre of expertise of child sexual abuse (CSA Centre) has commissioned MDX & UEL academics to undertake an 18 month study to develop and test a typology of CSA offending to address current gaps in knowledge and inconsistent approaches to the nature of offending.
The project will be co-led by Dr Elena Martellozzo (MDX) and Professor Julia Davidson (UEL) and supported by Dr Daniela Lup (MDX), Professor Joanne Alder (MDX), Dr Jeffrey DeMarco and our newly appointed research assistant, Dr Aviah Sarah Day.
The project will explore the fluidity of online and offline offending behaviours and contexts across offence categories. Current ‘typologies’ or ‘models’ of CSA have largely been developed by those working in criminal justice and child protection to help them describe what they see in their practice. While this is an understandable response, it has led to inconsistencies and confusion regarding what we mean when we use terms to describe different types of child sexual abuse. This research will contribute to filling those gaps by using an alternative evidence-based approach. That is to say, the typology will describe the ways and contexts in which children are sexually abused and how these may overlap. For example, it will show, based on evidence, if ‘organised exploitation’ or ‘grooming gangs’ are a clearly defined type of offending, and if so, what the characteristics are and how these overlap with other forms of CSA offending.
The researchers will not be interviewing or working directly with those who have sexually abused children and will therefore not specifically look at the motivations of those who offend. Also, it is not the aim of this project to present a picture of the scale of CSA but to focus on the nature of sex offences against children.
The aim of the Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse (CSA Centre) is to create a future where children are free from the threat and harm of sexual abuse by radically improving how we prevent and respond to the issue through really understanding its causes, scope, scale and impact.
Dr. Jeffrey DeMarco, Post-doctoral Research Fellow and Dr. Elena Martellozzo, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, both of CATS were granted a research award from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), an organisation that exists to assist removing illegal indecent content online, thus keeping young people safe and risk-free. Specifically, the bid will looked into the Notice to Takedown (NTD) processes administered by the IWF but with its industry and corporate partners; the utility and functionality of its URL list, a critical element to protecting young people online and preventing the availability and dissemination of indecent context; and engagement with a wide-range of stakeholders from across industry, third sector, law enforcement and government, to bring further transparency and understanding to the organisation’s performance and placement within prevention and intervention narratives. The research lasted for 18 months and applied a variety of methodological procedures in the pursuit of the above findings. The pair served as co-Principal investigators.
Professor Antonia Bifulco and colleagues were awarded an ERC project grant of £480,000 for a 3-year project: ‘Stress online: Developing a reliable and valid interactive online method for measuring stressful life events and difficulties.’ The project was run in partnership with Goldsmiths University London and Kings College, London.
Stress is known to be a major contributor to illness and a significant obstacle to wellbeing. It is common in the general population, particularly adolescence and amongst those disadvantaged, and likely to increase at times of economic austerity. To understand stress, it is important to differentiate its objective properties in terms of adverse life events and difficulties and stress responses such as physical or emotional illness.
The project involved developing a new online Computerised Life Event Assessment Record (CLEAR) to mimic characteristics of an existing face-to-face intensive interview approach, but administered remotely at much lower cost, with the aim of developing a measure which will enhance the understanding of stress through improved research and clinical practice.
CATS in conjunction with the Devon and Cornwall police were awarded a Police Innovation Fund grant. Working with the National Volunteer Police Cadets, the research was undertaken to assist in the national roll-out of the cadet programme across all 43 police forces, as well as to develop a longitudinal survey exploring the impact involvement with a cadet unit may have on young people. The bid also saw the development of a new innovative digital platform and an adult volunteers’ training programme to support of local units. The evaluation, led by Dr Jeffrey DeMarco and with both Professors’ Julia Davidson and Antonia Bifulco as co-investigators, explored the utility of engaging with the police through the cadet programme. This included investigating the psychopathology, trust and attitudes towards the police amongst cadets. Dr DeMarco and the team from Middlesex University analysed and reported on how the digital platform can (and will continue) to provide a rich source of data. The use of this data can feed into concepts of procedural justice, improving youth-police, and public-police relationships, and community engagement’. Final project report.
‘Understanding the Process of Online Grooming and Victim Selection: the Behaviours of Men who Target Children and Young People Online’.
The partnership was headed by Stephen Webster at the National Centre for Social Research, together with Prof Julia Davidson and Prof Toni Bifulco at Kingston University, and partners in Oslo (Prof Gottschalk), Belgium (Prof Pham) and Italy (Prof Caretti). The grant was for €430,000 over a 30 month period to scope out the legal and policy framework in member European countries of internet abuse and to investigate profiles of online groomers and to disseminate preventative messages to schools and parents in member countries. We are grateful for our partners for their support and contribution to this success. The project was sponsored by the European Commission Safer Internet Plus Programme.
We reached the end of this project in Spring 2012, with the final report (view the executive summary of the report) submitted to the EC. The launch of the report was held at the House of Lords on April 18th ‘European Online Grooming Project: Key Findings and Implications’. This work is also being disseminated to the public, with sessions held in each of the partner countries with parents and teachers. These have been very informative about public perceptions, and misconceptions about online grooming and how safety messages can be targeted on vulnerable children and families. We are proud of the success of the project and appreciate the leadership of Stephen Webster at NatCen in directing the data collection as well as compiling the interim and final reports as well as the partnership with our colleagues Prof Pham, Prof Caretti and Prof Gottschalk who were responsible for the data collection and dissemination in Belgium, Italy and Norway.
This research was commissioned by the NSPCC and Children’s Commissioner (OCC) for England to explore the feelings and experiences of children and young people about online pornography. The research team, lead by Dr Elena Martellozzo and Dr Miranda Horvath, was keen to explore the experiences of UK adolescents (11-16) and their feelings about online pornography. One thousand and seventy five children participated in the study (1001 in an online survey and the rest in online moderated discussions/focus groups). The final report can be read here.