Title: How children get “in sync” with their caregivers and how optimal synchrony benefits child development, health and wellbeing
Funding: The studentship consists of an annual stipend of (at least) £17,668, and covers yearly UK home tuition fees, for 36 months. Please note that only UK home applicants are eligible for the studentship.
Application deadline: 31 July 2023 (interviews will take place shortly after the deadline).
Start date: October 2023.
Duration: 3 years (full time)
Location: Colchester Campus
If successful, you will be investigating two questions. Firstly, when is high bio-behavioural synchrony (BBS) most beneficial and when can it have detrimental effects on child development, health, and wellbeing? Secondly, how does child-caregiver BBS differ in families with neurodiverse children and how could it be optimised through future interventions?
You will join a vibrant department with an active cohort of doctoral students, and a supportive team of academics, administrators, and technicians.
We welcome applications from candidates with knowledge and experience in experimental research and quantitative analysis in psychology or a related discipline.
This PhD project contributes to the Faculty of Science and Health’s priority research theme ‘Health and Wellbeing’. The PhD student will investigate how neurotypical and neurodiverse children get “in sync” with their caregivers and how optimal synchrony benefits child development, health and wellbeing. This is the first step towards developing and testing a novel intervention program based on optimised caregiver-child synchrony specifically targeting neurodiverse children and their families.
High-quality child-caregiver interactions are crucial for child development, health, and wellbeing. Children with available, responsive, and sensitive caregivers show fewer behavioural problems, higher academic achievement, and better mental and physical health and wellbeing. It was recently suggested that better child-caregiver interaction quality is linked to higher child-caregiver bio-behavioural synchrony (BBS) – i.e., the tight coordination and reciprocity of behaviour, physiology and brain activity. However, two central questions remain unanswered. First, when is high BBS most beneficial and when can it have detrimental effects on child development, health, and wellbeing? Second, how does child-caregiver BBS differ in families with neurodiverse children and how could it be optimised through future interventions?
The PhD student will investigate the above questions via a collaboration between Dr Benjamin Marlow, consultant paediatrician at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), Director of the Synapse Centre for Neurodevelopment and Clinical Lead for Paediatrics at Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System (SNEE ICB), and Dr Pascal Vrticka, Lecturer in Psychology and Principal Investigator of the Social Neuroscience of Human Attachment (SoNeAt) Lab.
You will receive unique and extensive training in the conduct of state-of-the-art research at the interface of social neuroscience and developmental psychology in a clinical setting, including HR ethics. The partner organisation will provide all necessary training relating to conduct of NHS clinical patient research. You will have an honorary ESNEFT contract and complete the mandatory training portfolio for clinical staff (i.e., mental capacity assessments, safeguarding, equality and diversity). All these components will significantly enhance your experience and broaden your future employment prospects.
The studentship consists of an annual stipend of at least £17,668, plus a waiver of fees to cover home tuition fees, for a maximum of 36 months.
PhD students also receive a £2,500 training bursary via Proficio funding, which may be used to cover the cost of advanced skills training including conference attendance and travel as well as £500 per academic year for research purposes.
Please note that only UK home applicants are eligible for the studentship.
The successful applicant will enrol as a PGR student at the University of Essex. They will be based at the SoNeAt Lab as part of the Centre for Brain Science within the Department of Psychology.
You can apply for this postgraduate research opportunity by emailing your application to the lead supervisor, Dr Pascal Vrticka (email@example.com).
Please include “October 2023 PhD Studentship Application” in the subject line of your message.
Applications MUST include the following documents to be uploaded:
If you have any informal queries about this opportunity, please email Dr Pascal Vrticka (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The application deadline for this studentship is 31 July 2023. Interviews will take place shortly after the deadline. The successful candidate needs to formally apply as a PGR student with the University of Essex by 31 August 2023. The PhD position will start in October 2023.