Sophia Quirke-McFarlane

PhD Candidate and Trainee Health Psychologist
BA (Hons), MSc
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Academic and research departments

School of Psychology.


I am a 3rd year PhD Candidate and Trainee Health Psychologist here at the University of Surrey. I plan to use both qualitative and quantitative research methods to explore the role of social support throughout patients' Bariatric Surgery journey. Alongside my PhD research, I am also working towards achieving the Stage 2 Qualification in Health Psychology and a Fellowship in the Higher Education Academy.


In 2019, I completed an MSc in Health Psychology at the University of St Andrews. Prior to that, I completed a BA (Hons) in Applied Psychology at University College Cork.


Prior to commencing my PhD, I worked as a Research Assistant at King’s College London and Imperial College London. At King’s College London, under the supervision of Professor John Weinman, I used a range of research methodologies to investigate the extent of and reasons underlying treatment adherence in chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, asthma, psoriasis, as well as rare conditions, such as growth hormone deficiencies. At Imperial College London, using qualitative research methods, I explored differences in consultant orthopaedic surgeons’ pre-operative decision-making in total hip replacements.


My research interests include eating behaviours, obesity and weight management, communication in healthcare, and treatment adherence.

My qualifications

BA (Hons) in Applied Psychology
University College Cork
2018 - 2019
MSc in Health Psychology
University of St Andrews

Affiliations and memberships

Division of Health Psychology, British Psychological Society
Graduate member



J. Ogden, S. Quirke-Mcfarlane (2024)Care or sabotage? A reflexive thematic analysis of perceived partner support throughout the bariatric surgery journey, In: British Journal of Health Psychology Wiley

Objective: Social support is mostly seen as a positive resource for many health outcomes. However, some research indicates that weight loss may disrupt the equilibrium of relationships and highlights the potential for a more negative form of social support. This qualitative study aimed to explore bariatric surgery (BS) patients’ perceptions of the way in which their current or previous partner supported them throughout their BS journey.Design: BS patients (N=30) participated in remote qualitative semi-structured interviews. Methods: The data were analysed using an inductive approach to reflexive thematic analysis. At the time of this study, patients had undergone BS a mean of 5.1 years ago. Results: Four themes were derived from the data. While two themes reflected social support as a form of caring (Mutual Investment and Positive Reinforcements),the other two themes indicated aspects of sabotage (Feeder Behaviours and Negative Reactions to Weight Loss Attempts and Successes). Transcending these themes was the notion of Bariatric Surgery as an Opportunity or Threat to the Relationship.Conclusions: Some patients perceived social support as a positive resource for achieving optimal clinical response post-BS. This was characterised by Mutual Investment from their partners and being offered Positive Reinforcements for changes in their weight status and wellbeing. Some, however, described more negative aspects of support which had undermined their BS goals, either unintentionally or intentionally, through acts of sabotage including Feeder Behaviours and Negative Reactions to Weight Loss Attempts and Successes. Future research should develop interventions to help prepare the partners of those undergoing BS for the changes to both their partner’s weight status and the dynamics of their relationship.

Purpose of review: Whilst research indicates the positive impact of social support across a number of health domains, including weight management, not all social support is beneficial. Findings: This paper reviews the evidence for both positive and negative social support in the context of behavioural interventions and surgery for obesity. It then presents a new model of negative social support focusing on sabotage (‘active and intentional undermining of another person’s weight goals’), feeding behaviour (‘explicit over feeding of someone when they are not hungry or wishing not to eat’) and collusion (‘passive and benign negative social support to avoid conflict’) which can be conceptualized within the context of relationships as systems and the mechanisms of homeostasis. Summary: There is increasing evidence for the negative impact of social support. This new model could form the basis of further research and the development of interventions for family, friends and partners to maximise weight loss outcomes.  

Additional publications