Mindfulness based online support for children and families affected by skin conditions

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    Cardiff University
    United Kingdom
    Natural sciences
    Social sciences



This is an exciting opportunity to conduct a funded studentship for those with an interest in clinical, health, or developmental psychology. The supervising team consists of Professor Andrew Thompson (Clinical/Health Psychology), who has a track record of conducting research on the psychological aspects of skin conditions, and who is an advisor for The All Party Parliamentary Group on Skin conditions; Dr Helen Penny (Clinical Psychologist), a clinical psychologist working with children and families, with expertise in cognitive behavioural therapy, parenting, and mindfulness; Professor Katherine Shelton (Developmental Psychology), who has expertise in the emergence of psychological distress in social contexts during childhood.

Skin conditions may be present from birth or develop later in childhood or during adolescence. Skin conditions can significantly affect appearance, cause bodily pain and discomfort (including itching), and be associated with messy and time-consuming treatments. In addition, some childhood skin conditions are associated with significant morbidity, and most skin conditions have been consistently reported to be associated with stigmatisation. As such, childhood skin conditions affect not only the child directly but may also have a negative impact on the quality of life of other family members, especially parents (Ablett & Thompson, 2016; Ablett, Johnston, & Thompson, 2020). Parental stress associated with childhood skin diseases may reduce a parent’s ability to manage their child’s condition directly (e.g. through reduced medication adherence), or/and be associated with the development of unhelpful parenting styles that in turn can have a negative impact on a child’s mental and physical health (Emerson & Bögels, 2017).

There is a dearth of psychosocial interventions for adults and children affected by skin conditions (Lavda et al., 2012). Psychosocial interventions available for children and families have tended to be educationally orientated; focused on quality of life largely in atopic diseases; and have lacked a theoretical underpinning (Ersser et al., 2014). It is well established that psychological interventions are more likely to be successful if the target for change is a variable known to be associated with wellbeing. One such variable is mindfulness: Montgomery et al. (2016) found a relationship in adults living with skin conditions between mindfulness and psychosocial distress while Heapy et al. (2020) found dispositional mindfulness predicted lower levels of parental stress, and better parent and child quality of life in a sample of parents and children with atopic disease. Mindfulness techniques have also shown promise as psychosocial interventions for adults with a range of skin diseases (e.g. Kabat-Zinn et al., 1998; Gallo et al., 2017).

A recent survey evaluating feedback on the provision of online psychosocial support for adults with skin disease demonstrates that a website maybe a useful platform for this group of patients (Heapy et al., 2020). Health websites that include accounts of experience as well as intervention materials may be particularly valuable, and already exist for several other conditions (Ziebland & Wyke, 2012). However, in addition to the lack of psychosocial interventions for children and families affected by skin disease, there is also a lack of websites providing accounts of experience.

This studentship will look to develop online support resources for children and families affected by skin disease largely drawing upon techniques derived from mindfulness-based therapeutic approaches and mindful parenting interventions (Bogels, 2020). The precise details of the PhD will be finalised by the successful postgraduate student, who will be supported to identify a unique focus to their research to make a novel contribution to this neglected field. The methodology will adhere to established techniques for the development of complex psychosocial interventions, which will encourage the use of mixed methods, and have a strong focus on working in partnership with experts by experience, both in the form of dermatology healthcare professionals, psychologists, and affected families. It is envisaged that the PhD will yield publications and useful sustainable resources. In addition to providing evidence-based resources for the benefit of children and families, this clinically relevant PhD will offer an excellent training opportunity to develop the research skills and expertise of an early career researcher looking to establish a career in applied psychology research or/and with an interest in clinical psychology.

What is funded

Full awards are open to UK Nationals, and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education.

EU students who do not meet the residency requirements, a ‘Fees only’ award may be offered but we have been able to offer full awards if funding available.

International candidates are welcomed but they would need cover the difference in Home/EU and Overseas fees.


As only one studentship is available and a very high standard of applications is typically received, the successful applicant is likely to have a very good first degree (a First or Upper Second class BSc Honours or equivalent) and/or be distinguished by having relevant research experience.

How to Apply

You can apply online - consideration is automatic on applying for a PhD in Psychology, with an October 2020 start date..

Please use our online application service at https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research/programmes/program...

and specify in the funding section that you wish to be considered for School funding.

Please specify that you are applying for this particular project and the supervisor.

Application deadline: 24th July 2020 with interviews (by teams/zoom/skype) being held on or around 5th August and decisions being made by 10th August.


The responsibility for the funding offers published on this website, including the funding description, lies entirely with the publishing institutions. The application is handled uniquely by the employer, who is also fully responsible for the recruitment and selection processes.