Dr Terry Ng-Knight
Academic and research departmentsSchool of Psychology, Development, Education, Learning and Outreach in Psychology (DevELOP) Research Group, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.
I am a research psychologist with interests how 'positive' personality traits such as self-control develop and interact with environmental factors such as parenting, peers and socio-economic status. My main area of expertise is working with large survey and longitudinal data.
University roles and responsibilities
- Deputy Admissions Tutor
Affiliations and memberships
I have broad research interests across many areas of individual differences and developmental psychology. Some of my recent and ongoing work focuses on: the development of self-control; personality development; social mobility; socioeconomic effects on personality; transitions between schools and into work or university.
I teach on the BSc (Hons) Psychology course.
I contribute to the following modules:
- PSY1023: Classics in Personality Theory
- PSY2017: Advanced Statistics and Data Analysis
- PSY3116: Personality and Life Course Development.
I teach on the following MSc Social Psychology course.
I contribute to the PSYM140: Personality and Life Course Development module.
This study extends existing research on the role of infant temperament as a moderator of the association between the quality of parent‐child relationships and children’s self‐control during the pre‐school years. In particular, we focus on the potential moderating role of a dimension of early infant temperament known as behavioural inhibition. Assumptions formulated within the diathesis‐stress, the vantage‐sensitivity and the differential susceptibility models of individual differences in environmental sensitivity are tested.
Data are from the Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative birth cohort of 18,552 infants born in the UK during 2000/01.
The results show that the quality of both mother‐child and father‐child relationships are associated with children’s development of self‐control in early childhood. Additionally, individual differences in infant temperament moderate the association between mother‐child conflict and children’s development of self‐control. Specifically, high behavioural inhibition shows a vantage‐sensitivity pattern for mother‐child conflict.
Aspects of both mothers’ and fathers’ relationships with their young children independently predict variations in self‐control. This study also provides an initial indication that behavioural inhibition, a temperamental trait best‐known for being a risk factor for anxiety, may provide small benefits in relation to young children’s self‐control development.
Hearing problems can impair occupational functioning. Since coalition forces have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military have reported an increase in hearing problems. This can result in personnel being discharged, reducing their quality of life and future employment opportunities. Deploying personnel with hearing problems can also impair military capability. Hearing problems represent a substantial cost to the government who provide clinical services and compensation. We investigate whether there are associations between hearing problems and deployment to Iraq/Afghanistan and blast exposure within UK military personnel.
This is a two-phase cohort study of UK military personnel in which respondents completed questionnaires about deployment experiences and health outcomes. Data were collected between 2004 and 2006 and again between 2007 and 2009 (n=9984). Key demographic, military and deployment factors predicting hearing problems are explored using univariable and multivariable logistic regression.
We identified 1978 (19.4%) military personnel with hearing problems. Factors associated with hearing problems included being male (odds ratio 1.43, 95% CI 1.15-1.75), older than forty (1.44, 1.20-1.72), deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan (1.55, 1.24-1.94) and in a combat role (1.56, 1.34-1.81). Further investigation of deployed personnel showed that exposure to small arms/rocket-propelled grenade fire (2.11, 1.68-2.66), mortar attacks (1.50, 1.18-1.90), landmine strikes (2.80, 1.11-7.05), improvised explosive devices (2.37, 1.45-3.88) and firing a weapon in direct combat (2.92, 2.20-3.86) were associated with hearing problems.
Hearing problems are associated with deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan and with exposure to blasts. These results have implications for occupational hearing conservation programmes.
Very little is known about the extent to which eleven-year olds might consider a career in medicine. This exploratory study therefore asked children and their parents about medicine as a possible career, looking also at the relationship to a range of background measures.
A longitudinal, three-wave, questionnaire study of students transferring from primary to secondary school (STARS), with data collection at primary school (wave 1; mean age 11.3 yrs), in the first months of secondary school (wave 2; mean age 11.7 yrs) and at the end of the first year of secondary school (wave 3; mean age 12.3 yrs). Parents/carers also completed questionnaires. Children were entering ten large comprehensive secondary schools in the south-east of England; 46.3 % were female, 15.6 % receiving free-school meals, 39.8 % were Black or Minority Ethnic and 28.8 % had a first language which was not English. Of 2287 children in the study, 1936 children (84.5 %) completed at least one questionnaire of the three waves (waves 1, 2 and 3). The main outcome measures were an open-ended question in each wave, “What job would you like to do when you grow up?”, and a more detailed questionnaire in wave 3 asking about 33 different jobs.
9.9 % of children spontaneously mentioned medicine as a career on at least one occasion. For the specific jobs, would-be doctors particularly preferred Hospital Medicine, followed by Surgery, General Practice and then Psychiatry. Would-be doctors were also more interested in careers such as Nurse, Archaeologist, Lawyer and Teacher, and less interested in careers such as Shopkeeper, Sportsperson, or Actor/dancer/singer/musician. Would-be doctors were less Neurotic, more Open to Experience, more Conscientious, and preferred higher prestige occupations. Those interested in medicine did not score more highly on Key Stage 2 attainment tests or Cognitive Abilities Test, did not have a higher family income or greater parental/carer education, and did not have more experience of illness or deaths among family and friends.
An interest in a medical career, unlike high prestige jobs in general, is not associated with higher educational attainment or cognitive ability, and it is likely that only one in ten of the children interested in medical careers will have sufficient educational attainment at GCSE or A-level to be able to enter medical school.
There are concerns that alcohol misuse among military personnel could have serious consequences for both individual and organisational functioning. Research has found alcohol misuse to be particularly high in the UK Armed Forces, even when taking into account the UK general population's enthusiastic drinking behaviour. We aim to provide up-to-date information on alcohol misuse in the UK Armed Forces and explore changes in consumption.
A two-phase cohort study of UK military personnel in which respondents completed questionnaires about military experiences and health outcomes. Data were collected between 2004 and 2006 and again between 2007 and 2009 (n=9984). Factors predicting new-onset alcohol misuse at phase 2 are explored using univariable and multivariable logistic regression.
At phase two 13% (n=1323) of personnel report alcohol misuse, which is associated with both deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan and with combat roles. Alcohol misuse has reduced among regular personnel who responded to both phases (from 14.2% to 10.9%). Baseline factors associated with new-onset alcohol problems are being younger, being single, having a combat role, smoking, mental health difficulties, having parents with drink/drug problems. New-onset mental health difficulties and marital breakdown were also linked to new-onset alcohol problems, while military deployment and leaving the Armed Forces were not.
Alcohol-reduction programmes may benefit from targeting resources at those most at risk (such as those in combat roles). Associations with other habits (ie, smoking) and personal difficulties (eg, divorce) indicate that combined welfare programmes may be beneficial in maintaining a healthy workforce.
Friendships have been linked to mental health and school attainment in children. The effects of friendlessness and friendship quality have been well researched but less is known about the role of friendship stability (i.e., maintaining the same friend over time), an aspect of friendship which is often interrupted by the transition between phases of schooling. Many children report concerns about the secondary school transition which introduces a number of new social and academic challenges for children.Aims:
To explore rates of friendship stability and whether maintaining a stable best friend across the primary to secondary school transition provided benefits to children’s adjustment during this period.Sample:
Data were from 593 children (M age = 11 years 2 months).Methods:
This study used longitudinal data from children transitioning into 10 UK secondary schools and explored the association between self-reported friendship stability and three outcomes: academic attainment, emotional problems, and conduct problems. Analyses controlled for friendship quality and pre-transition psychological adjustment or attainment as appropriate.Results:
Rates of friendship stability were relatively low during this period. Children who kept the same best friend had higher academic attainment and lower levels of conduct problems. Exploratory analyses indicated that secondary school policies that group children based on friendships may support friendship stability.Conclusions:
Helping maintain children’s best friendships during the transition to secondary school may contribute to higher academic performance and better mental health.
The objective of the study was to elicit beliefs and experiences of the value of a screening programme for mental illness among UK military personnel.
Three months after returning from Afghanistan 21 army personnel participated in a qualitative study about mental health screening. One-to-one interviews were conducted and recorded. Data-driven thematic analysis was used. Researchers identified master themes represented by extracts of text from the 21 complete transcripts.
Participants made positive remarks on the advantages of screening. Noted barriers to seeking help included: unwillingness to receive advice, a wish to deal with any problems themselves and a belief that military personnel should be strong enough to cope with any difficulties. Participants believed that overcoming barriers to participating in screening and seeking help would be best achieved by making screening compulsory.
Although respondents were positive about a screening programme for mental illness, the barriers to seeking help for mental illness appear deep rooted and reinforced by the value ascribed to hardiness.
Adolescence is associated with developments in the reward system and increased rates of emotional disorders. Familial risk for depression may be associated with disruptions in the reward system. However, it is unclear how symptoms of depression and anxiety influence the development of reward‐processing over adolescence and whether variation in the severity of parental depression is associated with hyposensitivity to reward in a high‐risk sample.
We focused on risk‐adjustment (adjusting decisions about reward according to the probability of obtaining reward) as this was hypothesized to improve over adolescence. In a one‐year longitudinal sample (N = 197) of adolescent offspring of depressed parents, we examined how symptoms of depression and anxiety (generalized anxiety and social anxiety) influenced the development of risk‐adjustment. We also examined how parental depression severity influenced adolescent risk‐adjustment.
Risk‐adjustment improved over the course of the study indicating improved adjustment of reward‐seeking to shifting contingencies. Depressive symptoms were associated with decreases in risk‐adjustment over time while social anxiety symptoms were associated with increases in risk‐adjustment over time. Specifically, depression was associated with reductions in reward‐seeking at favourable reward probabilities only, whereas social anxiety (but not generalized anxiety) led to reductions in reward‐seeking at low reward probabilities only. Parent depression severity was associated with lowered risk‐adjustment in offspring and also influenced the longitudinal relationship between risk‐adjustment and offspring depression.
Anxiety and depression distinctly alter the pattern of longitudinal change in reward‐processing. Severity of parent depression was associated with alterations in adolescent offspring reward‐processing in a high‐risk sample.
Previous studies have shown that individual differences in self‐control emerge early in childhood and predict a range of important outcomes throughout childhood and adulthood. There is, however, less knowledge about the social origins of self‐control, including the mechanisms by which early socioeconomic adversity may lead to lower levels of self‐control. This study aimed to extend understanding of the link between socioeconomic adversity and self‐control by (a) testing which individual aspects of socioeconomic risk uniquely predict lower self‐control; (b) testing whether objective socioeconomic risk operates independently of, or via, subjective parental stress; and (c) examining the interplay of socioeconomic risk factors and individual differences in children's temperament as predictors of early self‐control.
Data were from a UK population birth cohort of 18,552 children born in 2000 and 2001.
Multiple individual socioeconomic risk factors have independent associations with children's self‐control, including low parental education, income, and occupational class; insecure housing tenure; and younger parenthood. Results point to independent additive effects of exposure to objective and subjective risk. There was evidence of mothers' subjective stress partially mediating objective socioeconomic risks but only weak evidence of hypothesized interaction effects between temperament and socioeconomic risk.
Results were consistent with additive risk and bioecological perspectives.
We assessed changes in Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) scores over time. We investigated the impact of life events and changes in mental health status on AUDIT scores over time in UK military personnel.
A random representative sample of regular UK military personnel who had been serving in 2003 were surveyed in 2004–2006 (phase 1) and again in 2007–2009 (phase 2). The impact of changes in symptoms of psychological distress, probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), marital status, serving status, rank, deployment to Iraq/Afghanistan and smoking was assessed between phases.
We found a statistically significant but small decrease in AUDIT scores between phases 1 and 2 (mean change = −1.01, 95% confidence interval = −1.14, −0.88). Participants reported a decrease in AUDIT scores if they experienced remission in psychological distress (adjusted mean −2.21, 95% CI −2.58, −1.84) and probable PTSD (adjusted mean −3.59, 95% CI −4.41, −2.78), if they stopped smoking (adjusted mean −1.41, 95% CI −1.83, −0.98) and were in a new relationship (adjusted mean −2.77, 95% CI −3.15, −2.38). On the other hand, reporting new onset or persistent symptoms of probable PTSD (adjusted mean 1.34, 95% CI 0.71, 1.98) or a relationship breakdown (adjusted mean 0.53, 95% CI 0.07, 0.99) at phase 2 were associated with an increase in AUDIT scores.
The overall level of hazardous alcohol consumption remains high in the UK military. Changes in AUDIT scores were linked to mental health and life events but not with deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.