Optimizing outcomes in children of depressed parents: Identification of modifiable promoters of sustained mental health resilience.

Children and Young People’s Mental Health PhD Scholarship 2020 - University of Cardiff

Supervisors: Stephan Collishaw, Frances Rice, Gemma Hammerton

Lay Summary:


Over 1 million children in the UK live with a parent with depression. They are at high risk of depression and other mental health problems. These can have a profound and long-lasting impact on young people’s education, relationships and future health.  However, whilst some develop serious mental health difficulties, others are surprisingly resilient. Very little is known about why this is. This project focuses on protective factors that help promote good mental health in studies that track the development of children of depressed parents into adult life. Previous work has pointed to important modifiable child, family, social and lifestyle factors that could be targeted by mental health intervention to forestall future mental health difficulties. However, the long-term benefits of these protective factors remain unclear. The scholarship will involve new research examining predictors of long-term mental health resilience in children of depressed parents in high-risk and unselected population cohorts. These children are now in their 20s. Young adulthood is a particularly important time, when mental health problems often first emerge and when young people often face major challenges in their lives – leaving home, going to University, gaining employment or starting a family of their own.


The objectives of the study are to 1) identify modifiable predictors of mental health resilience; 2) understand why, when and how protective factors have beneficial effects on mental health; and 3) work with affected families to develop new guidelines for promoting mental health in young people at risk for depression.



Aims are to 


1) identify modifiable child, family, social and lifestyle factors that predict sustained mental health resilience in children of depressed mothers using high-risk and population cohorts followed into adulthood; 


2) use longitudinal methods to examine the timing at which identified protective effects have their greatest effect, rule out alternative explanations such as reverse causation, and test whether protective mechanisms vary by gender and by child mental health outcome; and 


3) collaborate with stakeholders (young people, families, schools) to refine the objectives of the studentship at the outset, inform ongoing development of school- and health based depression prevention, and develop guidelines for future practice based on the study findings.

Research Student: Eglė Padaigaitė

Hi, my name is Eglė, and I am due to start my PhD in October 2020 at the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Cardiff University. I feel very fortunate to have been appointed to this post sponsored by MHRUK studentship and be given the opportunity to further develop my research skills while investigating factors promoting good mental health outcomes in young individuals at high risk for psychopathology.


I previously attained my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Vilnius University (Lithuania) and research master’s degree in Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience with specialization in Psychopathology at Maastricht University (Netherlands). For my master’s thesis, I worked on Cambridge Ultrasound Sibling and Parent Study (CUSP) at the Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge. My master’s thesis project investigated differential fetal growth trajectories in children exposed to the suboptimal intrauterine environment (i.e. androgen excess during pregnancy), and its association with autism likelihood in a child. Based on my thesis results, I am currently preparing a manuscript for publication.


Prior to my placement at the Autism Research Centre, I worked as a student assistant on Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination (ACE-R) adaptation and standardization project at Vilnius University and as a research assistant on a ‘Feigning: A cognitive dissonance analysis’ study at Maastricht University. As an undergraduate psychology student, I also interned at primary school, gymnasium, house of correction, and mental health centre. Outside of studying and research, I worked as a simulated patient for undergraduate Psychiatric Anamnesis course at Maastricht University and as an INSPIRE conference assistant at Amsterdam, Netherlands.