Transdiagnostic processes related to the mental health and well-being of young people in foster care

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Psychology


Memory processes are central to key theoretical models of post-trauma psychological outcomes (e.g., the cognitive model of post-traumatic stress disorder; Ehlers & Clark, 2000), form the basis of the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD; e.g., experiencing 'flashbacks' or intrusive memories of the events; American Psychiatric Association, 2013), and are targeted in most evidence-based post-trauma psychological interventions (NICE, 2005). Despite their potential centrality in predicting mental health and functional well-being following trauma, much of our understanding of trauma-related memory processes is derived from samples of young people who have experienced single-incident trauma (e.g., car accidents; Meiser-Stedman et al., 2009). Thus far, there has been little focus on the role of memory for young people who have experienced more complex, ongoing trauma and little systematic exploration of this in looked after children (LAC).

In contrast, poor emotion regulation has been highlighted as a central problem for LAC (Robinson et al., 2009), which is perhaps unsurprising given their common history of trauma, maltreatment, and insecure attachment, which is thought to impact on the development of emotion dysregulation (Cozolino, 2006). Along with memory processes, emotion regulation is considered a key transdiagnostic process across a range of mental health problems, including PTSD, depression, and anxiety (e.g., Aldao, Nolen-Hoeksema, & Schweizer, 2010; Tull, Barrett, McMillan, & Roemer, 2007). The affect regulation hypothesis suggests there may be a link between these two transdiagnostic processes; following trauma, children may develop faulty, over-general memories, meaning they recall memories with less specific detail, in order to minimise their experience of related negative emotions (Williams, 1996). However, this strategy could lead to further problems.

This project aims to investigate the potential link between memory and emotion regulation ability of LAC, and to see whether this affects their mental health and general well-being. Through this, I am interested in understanding the key mechanisms that may underlie the common mental health and well-being problems that are seen in children in care, so that we can improve the support that we provide for these young people and prevent the development of more entrenched difficulties.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1931273 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/03/2022 Rosie McGuire
Description 'Who cares about research' podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This podcast was established by a care-experienced person, to share care-related research with those it is relevant to and the general public. I am involved as a producer, so read around various topics to find someone doing interesting research and ask them if they would like to feature on the podcast. I then read their publications and generate a script of questions to ask them about their research. This has allowed us to share research with a wide range of people in a more accessible way.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021