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Personal profile

Research interests

In connection with the JTF 2020 award (see below), my plans are to continue with research around the personality construct of Locus of Control including how internality is beneficial to mental health, resilience and coping, positive well-being during the pandemic, spiritual beliefs and behaviours and sex. 

In 2020, JTF awarded Phase II, to the grant below (ref 61917); (~£8 million, 2021-2026; PIs: Jean Golding, Kate Northstone, Yasmin Iles-Caven, Abigail Fraser, Carol Joinson and Matt Suderman).  This project asks a number of major research questions concerning religious and/or spiritual belief and associated behaviours (RSBB) and their impact on health and well-being which include the following:

(a) Is there any evidence that the RSBB of adults is associated with health benefits or disadvantages in the short or long-term?

(b) Is the RSBB of one or both parents associated with the health of their offspring?

(c) Which factors mediate or moderate the health associations in (a) or (b)?

(d) If an individual has a particular disorder (e.g. asthma) or impairment (e.g. impaired hearing), or lives in an adverse environment (e.g. a violent household), is there any evidence that RSBB results in a less or more serious health outcome?

In addition, there are a number of more specific questions that this project will answer including:

(e) Almost a third of the study children attended a faith primary school. Does this influence their subsequent mental or physical health, or their RSBB?

(f) Are any health consequences of RSBB ‘explained’ by biomarkers indicating chronic inflammation or DNA methylation, or moderated by specific genes such as those related to oxytocin or serotonin?

(g) Is there evidence that individuals exposed to a traumatic childhood will be more resilient than their non-traumatised peers to long-term mental health consequences according to their own RSBB or that of their parents?

(h) Is there evidence that acute or chronic illness changes an individual’s RSBB, and is this associated with a difference in their well-being?

(i) Is there evidence that aspects of RSBB influence the health behaviours and/or parenting behaviours of the individual and, if so, whether this mediates any associations found with health outcomes?

In 2019, The John Templeton Foundation awarded phase 1 of a project entitled: Religious belief, health, and disease: a family perspective. I. Data Collection. (Grant ref 61356).  US$234,800 over 2 years.  This was to collect questionnaire data on religious or spiritual beliefs and behaviours using the ALSPAC cohort.  Locus of control was also asked at this sweep.  

Analysis of data in regard to locus of control and non-genetic inheritance is ongoing.

January 2018 to September 2020.  I mainly working on another JTF funded grant: “Transgenerational non-genetic pathways to human development” (PIs: Jean Golding and Marcus Pembrey).  A large part of this project involved carrying out a validation exercise (interviewing 100 families about their ancestors).  This will validate data from questionnaires to the whole cohort about accuracy of obtaining information concerning the early lives of grandparents and great grandparents, especially in regards to childhood smoking, life events and other stressors.

Nov 2015-Aug 2018.  Employed on a John Templeton Foundation (JFT) grant: “To study the origins and determinants of internal locus of control, to identify the consequences and guide the creation of efficacious interventions”. This project has resulted in 4 published papers, with another 5 submitted and 8 papers planned (as of 23.10.17).  (PIs = Jean Golding and Stephen Nowicki at Emory University).  This is a most exciting project, as one’s locus of control (LOC) can impact on almost every part of life from academic achievement, business success to mental and physical health outcomes. 

2015 – 2017    Two successive grants from the Escher Family Fund (PI = Jean Golding), looking at   grandmaternal prenatal smoking and its possible link with autism, autistic traits and other neurodevelopmental problems: an epidemiological analysis of population-based data.  This project has resulted in a couple of papers.

Between 2014 and 2016 my main theme of interest was the European Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ELSPAC) of which the Avon study (ALSPAC or Children of the 90s) was a component.  The historical importance of the Avon study and the influences of it, not only on subsequent longitudinal birth cohorts, but also on policy makers within the wider medical research community.  ELSPAC faced many difficulties including the fall of the Eastern bloc and subsequent economic hardships faced by those countries makes a fascinating comparison with Avon.  I prepared the ALSPAC Administrative Archive for submission to the University of Bristol Library's Special Collections, and obtained oral histories from significant individuals involved in the planning and implementation of the study.  This was funded by an Alumni donation, but the actual archiving work has been undertaken by a dedicated archivist employed on a Wellcome Trust grant specifically to archive and catalogue the administrative papers.





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