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Maternal, Child and Family Health Research Cluster

Our mission is to integrate research with education and practice to support the delivery of high quality and innovative maternal, child and family health care. Our focus is across the lifespan, across health and illness, taking into consideration physical, mental and psychosocial health.

We do this by working with a number of professional groups - from nursing, midwifery, health visiting, psychology, public health, school nursing, and community nursing - alongside health service researchers with expert skills across both qualitative and quantitative research.

Our approach means we can impact positively on the education and professional development of students studying at Surrey, and beyond. We also develop new understandings that shape the physical and mental health care of the mother and her unborn child, the new-born, children, young people, and all family members.

Research interests

In our cluster, one focus is on children’s health, on the well-being of children from conception through adolescence, in the context of their family unit. Children may be born with health problems, or develop a health problem, some of these are preventable: we have a particular focus on cancer, rare and complex diseases, disability (cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, or sensory), child and adolescent mental health and well-being. It should be possible to protect children from accidents or injury: we have a further focus on community health and safety, parenting skills, accident prevention, and safeguarding.

In addition, we also focus on the well-being of the workforce, and its relation to patient care, and the organisation and delivery of healthcare in various physical and mental health settings: studying the organisational climate, job satisfaction, team work, integration of care, staff well-being, and their relationship to staff reported patient care performance. We have a particular interest in ensuring that adults’ and children’s mental and physical health needs are treated equally well.  

Research areas

Our research falls into five main areas:

Cancer care for children, young people and families

  • Delivery and evaluation of health care
  • Pathways to diagnosis
  • Communication and decision-making
  • Supportive care
  • Palliative care
  • Technology that informs care
  • Mental health of those on the cancer journey, children and the whole family

Maternal and infant health

  • Obesity
  • Pre-conception
  • Contraception
  • Diabetes
  • Problem substance use
  • Obesity in the perinatal period
  • Nutrition
  • Perinatal mental health
  • Perinatal depression
  • Integrated interventions.

Child health

  • Inequalities in health care for children and young people with and without learning disabilities
  • Public health and safeguarding
  • Rare diseases
  • Transition
  • Arts use in health care
  • Preventing accidents in the under-fives
  • Child and adolescent mental health
  • Problem substance use rather than drug use
  • Children’s visual development including amblyopia, binocular vision and strabismus
  • Sexual health of young people
  • Anti-bullying.

Innovation and creativity in the delivery of education

  • Values based recruitment of students to educational pathways
  • Using drama to teach ethics
  • The potential of LEGO® and adapted LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® activities for improving student engagement, dialogue and critical reflection, and encouraging rich participation in classroom-based learning activities.

Mental Health

  • Minimising the use of restrictive practices in mental healthcare
  • Improving the physical health of people with severe and enduring mental health conditions
  • Improving the mental health and quality of life of people with physical health conditions

Research methodologies

  • Creative arts based approaches
  • Participatory research
  • Mixed methods
  • Grounded theory
  • Ethnography
  • Ethnographic case study
  • Phenomenology
  • Randomised Controlled Trials
  • Systematic reviewing (qualitative and quantitative)

Areas of interest for doctoral study

The Maternal, Child and Family Cluster welcomes approaches from people wishing to undertake PhD study here with us. We particularly welcome enquiries in the following areas:

  • Cancer care, in children, teenagers and young adults
  • Sexual Health
  • Maternal and Infant Health
  • Mental health
  • Mental/physical health interface

Please contact Freda Mold ( and Debbie Cooke ( our Health Sciences, Postgraduate Research Directors if you are considering PhD study.

Our studies

Some of our current studies include:

  1. Do specialist cancer services for teenagers and young adults add value? BRIGHTLIGHT study 
  2. James Lind Alliance Research Priority setting exercise – teenagers and young adults with cancer 
  3. Pay more attention: a national mixed methods study to identify the barriers and facilitators to ensuring children and young people with learning disabilities and their families receive equal access to high quality hospital care and services 
  4. Transition: understanding it and making it work
  5. Methods to assess cognitive development in children (0-8 years) in relation to preconception and prenatal maternal nutrition: a systematic review 
  6. The Role of Zinc in Depressed Pregnant and Non-Pregnant Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
  7. Can low serum zinc levels predict the presence of perinatal depression symptoms?  Nadine Page, Michelle Townsend, Karen Charlton, Hilary Davies, Chris Harrington, Anthony Dosset
  8. Longitudinal cohort studies exploring the reliability and predictive validity of multiple mini interviews (MMIs)
  9. Longitudinal hermeneutic cross-discipline study exploring the ‘values journey’ of nursing and midwifery students
  10. Exploring virtual reality as a teaching methodology in pre-registration healthcare student education
  11. Situational Judgment Test-Mixed methods study to develop and validate online tool
  12. Addressing a Critical Need: Feasibility of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Bariatric Surgery Patients at 15-18 months post- surgery (the FAB study)

  13. Enhancing de-escalation techniques in adult acute and forensic units: development and evaluation of an evidence-based training intervention (the EDITION study)

  14. Cancer screening uptake in people with severe mental illness

PhD studies:

  1. Penny Franklin: Engaging with parents and with their children, to support the children, when a parent has a life-limiting illness, and after a parent has died. Designing an intervention for health care professionals. Primary Supervisor Dr Ann Arber
  2. Johanna Groothuizen: A cross-sectional study of (moral) values in first, second and third year Adult Nursing students. Primary Supervisor Dr Alison Callwood
  3. Alison Smith ‘The role of art interventions in the reduction of experiential avoidance for military veterans with PTSD- a grounded theory study’. Institution of study: Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology, Canterbury Christ Church University. Supervisors: Dr Sue Holttum, Senior Lecturer; Dr Val Huet Chief Executive of The British Association of Art Therapists. 

Cluster members

Recent publications

Aldiss S, Rose L, McCutcheon D, Cass H, Ellis J, Gibson F (2018) Gathering expert opinion to inform benchmarks to support transitional care, Journal of Child Health Care. doi: 10.1177/1367493518780486. [Epub ahead of print]

Bryan G, Bluebond-Langner M, Kelly D, Kumpunen S, Oulton K, Gibson F (2018) Studying children’s experiences in interactions with clinicians: identifying methods fit for purpose Qualitative Health Research doi: 10.1177/1049732318801358. [Epub ahead of print]

Callwood A, Jeevaratnam K, Kotronoulas G, Schneider, A, Lewis, L, Devi Nadarajah, V. (2018) Personal domains assessed in multiple mini interviews (MMIs) for healthcare student selection: A narrative synthesis systematic review. Nurse Education Today 64:56-64 doi:10.1016/

Callwood A, Cooke D, Bolger S, Lemanska A, Allan H. (2018) The reliability and validity of multiple mini interviews (MMIs) in values based recruitment to nursing, midwifery and paramedic practice programmes: Findings from an evaluation study. International Journal of Nursing Studies 77:138-144 doi:10.1016/j.ijnstu.2017.10.003

Callwood A, Bolger S, Allan H.  (2018) Exploring the ‘values journey’ of student nurses who have been recruited using values-based approaches. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 00:1-11 doi: 10.1111/jan.13514

Chung J, Lam K, Ho KY, Cheung AT, Ho L, Gibson F, Li W (2018) Relationships among resilience, self-esteem and depressive symptoms in Chinese adolescents. J Health Psychology doi: 10.1177/1359105318800159. [Epub ahead of print]

Coad J, Smith J, Pontin D, Gibson F (2018) 'Consult, Negotiate, and Involve: Evaluation of an Advanced Communication Skills Program for Health Care Professionals'. J Pediatric Oncology Nursing 35(4) 296-307

Davies HR, Hackett, R, Cadar D, Herbert A, Orrell M and Steptoe A (2018). Vision impairment and risk of dementia: Findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Journal of Gerontology doi: 10.1111/jgs.15456. [Epub ahead of print]

Hackett, R, Davies HR, Cadar D, Orrell M and Steptoe A. (2018). Walking speed, cognitive function and risk of dementia: Findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Journal of Gerontology. doi: 10.1111/jgs.15312. [Epub ahead of print]

Dorina Cadar, PhD; Camille Lassale, PhD; Hilary Davies, PhD; David J. Llewellyn, PhD; G. David Batty, DSc; Andrew Steptoe, DSc (2018). Individual and Area-Based Socioeconomic Factors Associated With Dementia Incidence in England. Evidence from a 12-Year Follow-up in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. 75(7):723-732.

Davies HR, Petersen I, Nazareth I, Stevenson. (2018). Factors influencing recording of drug-misuse in primary care –a qualitative study. BJGP 68(669):e234-e244.

Davies-Kershaw H (contributor) Children’s Policy Research Unit. Parental Alcohol Misuse and the Impact on Children: a Rapid Evidence Review of Service Presentations and Interventions (2018)….

Gibson F, Kumpunen S, Bryan G, Forbat L. (2018) 'Insights from parents of a child with leukaemia and healthcare professionals about sharing illness and treatment information: a qualitative research study'. International Journal of Nursing Studies 83: 91-102

Herbert A, Lyratzopoulos G, Whelan J, Taylor R, Barber J, Gibson F, Fern L (2018) 'Diagnostic timeliness in teenagers and young adults with Cross-sectional findings from the BRIGHTLIGHT cohort' Lancet Child and Adolescent Health 2(3):180-190. DOI:

Lavender V, Gibson F, Brownsdon A, Fern L, Whelan J, Pearce S. (2018) Health professionals perceptions of communicating with adolescents and young adults about bone cancer clinical trial participation. Supportive Care in Cancer doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4337-4. [Epub ahead of print]

Marsh W, Leamon J, Robinson A & Shawe J (2018) 'LEARNS: A creative approach to analysing and representing narrative data incorporating photo-elicitation techniques' Journal of Research in Nursing 23, (4) 334 -343.

Mayer F, Bick D and Taylor C. (2018) Multidisciplinary care for pregnant women with cardiac disease: A mixed methods evaluation. IJNS 85: 96-105

McGregor, F., Stretch, R., Robinson, A., Cannon, E., and Shawe, J. (2018) ‘Nurse-led sexual health clinics in hostels for homeless people’. Nursing Times 114(5) pp.42-46

Morriss-Roberts C, Oulton K, Sell D, Wray J, Gibson F. (2018) How should health service researchers respect children’s personal data under GDPR? Lancet Child Adolescent Health 2(10) 696-697.

Oulton K, Gibson F, Carr L, Hassiotis A, Jewitt C, Kenten C, Russell J, Whiting M, Tuffrey-Wijne I, Wray J (2018) 'Mapping staff perspectives towards the delivery of hospital care for children and young people with and without learning disabilities in England: a mixed methods national study'. BMC Health Services Research 18(1): 203

Regmi D, Tobutt C, and Shaban S. (2018) Quality and use of free smoking cessation apps for smartphones. International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care, doi: org/10.1017/SO266462318000521.

Robinson P, Oberoi S, Tomlinson D, Duong N, Davis H, Cataudella D, Culos-Reed N, Gibson F, Götte M, Hinds P, Nijhof SL,Torre P, Cabral S, Dupuis L, Sung L (2018) 'Management of fatigue in children and adolescents with cancer and in paediatric recipients of haemopoietic stem-cell transplants: a clinical practice guideline'. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health 2(5):371–378.

Soanes L, Gibson F (2018) 'Protecting an adult identity: A grounded theory of supportive care for young adults recently diagnosed with cancer'. International Journal of Nursing Studies Jan 31;81:40-48.

Wray J, Brown K, Tregay J, Crowe S, Knowles R, Bull K, Gibson F (2018) 'Parents' experiences of caring for their child at the time of discharge after cardiac surgery and during the post-discharge period: qualitative study using an online forum'. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(5):e155.

Soanes L, Gibson F (2018) 'Protecting an adult identity: A grounded theory of supportive care for young adults recently diagnosed with cancer'. International Journal of Nursing Studies Jan 31;81:40-48.

Wray J, Brown K, Tregay J, Crowe S, Knowles R, Bull K, Gibson F (2018) 'Parents' experiences of caring for their child at the time of discharge after cardiac surgery and during the post-discharge period: qualitative study using an online forum'. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(5):e155.

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  • Phone: +44 (0)1483 686700
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School of Health Sciences
Kate Granger Building
30 Priestley Road, Surrey Research Park