CRFR PhD students

CRFR supports a number of University of Edinburgh PhD students who are conducting research on families and relationships. Below is a list of current and completed students.

Current PhD students

Jane Andrew
Current project: The Meanings and Experiences of Befriending for People who have Memory Loss or Dementia
This project aims to explore the meaning and experiences of befriending relationships for people with memory loss or dementia in the context of a person’s everyday life, personal community, and associated life history.

Bekkah Bernheim
Current project:  The Resettlement Experiences of Displaced Girls: A Comparative Study of Rural and Urban Scotland
There is a paucity of scholarly research examining the resettlement experiences of displaced young women and girls in Scotland. Bekkah’s proposed research seeks to address this gap in the corpus of existing literature.  It compares displaced girls’ experiences of resettlement in both a rural and an urban context, with a particular focus on mobility and integration.  The experiences of forced migrants resettled in a rural context are markedly different from those resettled in an urban context due to available resources, access to services, and local social and cultural norms. Through the use of ethnographic and participatory methods, the research seeks to understand what constraints and enablers impact girls’ (im)mobility, and how these girls resist, comply with, and/or redefine mobility boundaries, and if and how this contributes to, or in fact, inhibits the societal integration of displaced girls in Scotland.

Jillian Hart
Current project: Is methodological innovation superficially attractive but challenging in practice? A case study combining biographical narrative with social network mapping
As social scientists we have a variety of methods in our social science ‘toolbox’. But, are we using the same methods over and over again? We have so many methods and applications of methods at our disposal; why are we sticking to primarily interviews, questionnaires, ethnography, focus groups (or a combination of them). The NCRM typology of research methods lists literally dozens of methods, and even with only 12 methods considered, there are 132 possible pairings of methods, so why are we limiting our data collection methods? Is mixing methods superficially attractive but challenging in practice? This thesis therefore questions, are we stuck in a rut with our data collection methods? This project will examine and explore the potential, and also the pitfalls, of bringing (auto)biographical research and social network analysis together by way of a case study which examines the academic career, relationships, and networks of Professor Ann Oakley.

Karina Padilla
Current project: Details to follow

Liliana Arias Urena
Current project: Children´s Experiences of Living with Cleft Lip and Palate (CLP)
This qualitative study seeks to explore children’s own accounts of the experience of living with Cleft Lip and Palate in a Latin-American context-Colombia.

Laura Wright
Current project:  Play-based research to explore child researchers’ psychosocial wellbeing and community participation
Laura’s research explores the role of play-based methodologies in child researchers’ psychosocial wellbeing and meaningful participation.  The research study will use an interdisciplinary sociology of childhood, child-rights, social ecological and systems thinking approach, and an anticolonial research paradigm (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Dei & Kempf, 2006; James & Prout, 2015; Wilson, 2008).  A qualitative play-based participatory research process will be employed that draws on participatory action research (PAR) (Reason & Bradbury, 2006) and creative action research (CAR) to support  refugee child researchers (11 to 16 years) to develop skills to lead research with their peers and community on the role of play in psychosocial well being. Thus, each member of the research team will be leading on a research project, Laura’s being her PhD exploring child researchers’ experience and the children’s being their PAR projects.


Recently completed PhD students

Amelia Alias
Children’s understanding of online data privacy: a study on Scottish Primary 6 and Primary 7 pupils
This study aimed to explore how children perceive online privacy. It addressed three research questions: RQ 1: What are children’s views of online privacy? RQ 2: What are parents’ views of online privacy? Do their views on privacy influence how they deal with their children’s privacy? RQ 3: What are the benefits and disadvantages of different Internet parental mediation strategies for children’s online privacy?

Patricio Cuevas-Parra
Phd: All opinions matter: Children and young people leading their own research
This research project aims to critically explore how the process and outcomes of the participation of children and young people in their own research contribute, positively or negatively, to decision-making processes. This study hopes to fill the gap between literature and practice regarding child-led research which has been not widely documented and to provide such knowledge.

Emma Doyle
Phd: Calling NHS 24: exploring caller decision making and help seeking behaviour within the context of out-of-hours health care provision

This project used in-depth qualitative interviews to explore illness behaviour amongst people who call NHS 24 during the out-of-hours period and who are given self-care advice. This research was funded through an ESRC CASE studentship, in association with NHS 24.

Carine Leborgne
Phd: Implementing children and young people’s participation in decision-making: The role of non-governmental organisations
Carines research aimed to follow a case study approach focusing on two children’s rights organisations, one in Scotland and one in Tamil Nadu (South India). It looked at how NGOs implement the concept of participation, at the role of facilitators and barriers in the process of implementation, and at future improvement of children’s participation. The study compared practices between the “Minority World” and “Majority World” to evaluate alternative solutions to implement children’s participation.​

Sara Diane Lindores
Phd: Women, sectarianism and Scottish intergenerational family relationships

Alexandra Macht
Phd: Fatherhood and love: A psychosocial and cultural exploration of unromantic love in Scottish and Romanian families.
Through semi-structured qualitative interviews, observations of personal lives and an analysis of current parenting blogs, the research investigates the conceptions and emotional experiences of both parents in general and fathers in particular regarding unromantic child-led love.

Aoife McKenna
Phd: Women’s experiences of sterilisation in Brazil: negotiating reproductive discourses, institutional and intimate relationships, and contraceptive practices
Aoife was awarded a Wellcome Trust funded studentship under a Biomedical Ethics Strategic programme, “The Human Body, its Scope, Limits and Future”. The project investigated sterilization in Brazil and the U.K., particularly focusing on conceptions of parenthood and family, constructions of the human body and its capabilities, and issues of regulation.

Christina McMellon
Phd:  Critical happiness: examining the beliefs that young Lao volunteers in Vientiane hold about the things that make life good
Christina’s research used collaborative ethnography to explore young Laotian’s experiences and understandings of their subjective wellbeing and how these experiences and assessments are informed by Lao culture and changing global cultures.

Mary Mitchell
Phd: Re-imagining family group conferencing ‘outcomes’
This PhD research was a 1+3 collaborative studentship, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and was a partnership between CHILDREN 1ST, the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships and the University of Edinburgh. This qualitative research aimed to better understand the contribution Family Group Conferencing  (FGC) made to longer-term outcomes for children and families. For the purposes of the research, “longer-term” was considered to be 12 months or longer, after an FGC meeting had taken place.

Fiona Morrison
Phd: Children, contact and domestic abuse
Fiona was awarded a CASE ESRC studentship with Scottish Women’s Aid and the Centre for Research in Families and Relationships (CRFR). Her research focused on children’s views and experiences of contact when there is history of domestic abuse, and their views of contact policy and legislation.

Kate Norman
Phd: Transgender people’s experiences of health and social care provision in Scotland
Kate’s PhD reviewed levels of social care need and service provision for transgender people in Scotland, within dedicated and generic services, and from the perspectives of transgender people themselves. The findings, from three online surveys and nineteen online interviews, identified varying levels of support from transgender groups, gender specialists, GPs, counsellors/psychiatrists, families and friends, and from care staff. Key areas of need included gender identity and transition issues, family concerns, documentation, mental and physical health issues, and issues relating to social integration, including the effects of transphobia and social isolation.
Read the ‘Report to the Scottish Government: Socialising Transgender’
Author of   Socialising Transgender: Support for Transition, published 2017

Harla Sara Octarra
Phd: Making visible inter-agency working processes in children’s services
This PhD looked at practices of working together in children’s services.  The research was conducted within the context of Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) implementation.  GIRFEC is the Scottish Government approach to improving outcomes for children.  It requires agencies in each local authority to work together in order to deliver appropriate and timely services for children and families, and the researcher looked closely on what working together meant in practice.  The PhD was funded by the Indonesia Education Scholarship; the Indonesian Government scholarship that was managed and administered by the Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP) of Ministry of Finance.

Temitayo Odewusi
Phd: Exploration of power relations in the sexual and contraceptive choices of adolescents in South West Nigeria

Sharani Osborn
Phd: Doing fatherhood, doing family: contemporary paternal perspectives
The studentship, funded by the ESRC through the Centre for Population Change (CPC) comprised of a qualitative interview project in Edinburgh with men who are fathers, and a smaller sample of men who are not fathers. The aim of the research was to explore how men understand the place of fatherhood in the life course and in relation to other life domains, as well as the factors shaping decisions around having children for men who are and are not fathers.

Rebecca Parry
Phd:  Impact of early (childhood) on-set epilepsy on the family
The project focused on the impact of early (childhood) on-set epilepsy on the family. Examining closely the affects a diagnosis has on the child, siblings, and parents. As well as exploring family dynamics and strategies for managing and living with chronic illness. The PhD is part of on-going work at the Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children Edinburgh and funded by the Muir Maxwell Trust.

Lee Siew-Pien
Phd:  Children’s participation in decisions regarding their nursing care: An ethnographic study of children, parents and nurses in the oncology setting
The aim of this study was to explore children’s participation in decisions regarding their nursing care from the perspective of the children, their parents, and nurses in an oncological ward in Malaysia.

Eloi Ribe
Phd: Maintaining and extending grandparent-grandchild relationships
This project aims to investigate how, and under what circumstances, intimacy in grandparent-grandchild relationships is enabled, enacted and sustained in the early years of grandchildren. Previous work on emotional closeness of grandparent-grandchild relationships suggests that grandmothers and maternal grandparents are more likely to feel stronger bonds with their grandchildren, and that grandparents with a good quality of relationship with parents and living geographically close to grandchildren have greater opportunities to develop a strong emotional tie.

Sarah Rogers
Phd: Exploring non-resident fatherhood and child well-being in the early years using the Growing Up in Scotland study.
This project used data from the Growing Up in Scotland study to research and explore associations between non-resident fatherhood and child well-being and the potential pathways through which such associations may operate.

Nathalia Salamanca
Phd: Sense-making and life narratives: Colombian former child soldiers and their views about childhood during war. The aim of this research is to explore the existence of former child soldier’s narrative that could contest that mainstream discourse, and to see what contributions these narratives can provide to the understanding of childhood during war.

Scott Tindal
Phd: This studentship aimed to contribute to the body of research concerned with knowledge exchange.
This project explored the processes of non-academic engagement at the interface between researchers and non-academic research-users, for example; policymakers, charities, private companies, and other stakeholders including the wider public. This study used the case study of the CPC to explore how demography and population research is disseminated across a wide range of different research-using audiences.

Julie Watson
Project: Understanding the caring relationship between people with advanced dementia and care staff in a care home
This research sought to understand the caring relationship between people with advanced dementia towards the end of life and care staff in a care home. Using embodied self hood as a theoretical framework and focusing on everyday acts of care, she explored ways of being with the person with dementia in caring ways that draw upon their remaining emotional, relational and embodied capacities, as part of a palliative care approach.

Alex Wright
Project:  What’s so important about health policy implementation?
This research is a review of evidence regarding health policy implementation. It draws on peer-reviewed journal articles and grey literature on a variety of health policy topics, including health and social care, health inequalities, disability rights, indigenous health, mental health, physical activity, obesity, and tobacco control. There is a specific focus on alcohol policy in Scotland.

Yan Zhu
Current project: Chinese children’s understanding and experiences of friendships with peers in the context of a rural primary boarding school
The broad aim of this Ph.D. research was to learn how rural Chinese children understand and experience friendships with peers in the context of a primary boarding school in rural China. To answer this research question, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork lasting five months at a primary rural boarding school in the western area of Hubei Province, mainly working with Primary Year 5 children in 2016. During this period, I lived in this boarding school’s on-campus teachers’ accommodation and fully engaged in children’s everyday school lives.


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