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Dr Kathryn Higgins

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work
Dr Kathryn Higgins

Dr Kathryn Higgins

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Kathryn Higgins is a reader within the school of Social Science Education and Social Work with an established research reputation in the areas of substance use and addictive behavior and programme evaluation/implementation science. She continues to lead the now 18-year longitudinal study, known as the Belfast Youth Development Study, which has it has acted as a focal point for many collaborations.  Kathryn has stayed at the forefront of emerging issues; for example, she was recently funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to undertake research in the developing field of new psychoactive substances (legal highs).  She has developed a cadre of work over the past ten years on Programme evaluation & implementation Science, evaluating interventions designed to improve child and adolescent development. These include RCTs of school- and community-based interventions, for example ‘Ready to Learn’ and ‘Parenting UR Teens, ‘Brook Sexual Health service’.

Her research programmes, publications and international conference contributions have examined the policy and evidence base for interventions including substance misuse, mental health, alcohol prevention and the mechanisms for implementing evidence based practice and policy more generally.

Research Interests

Open to PhD applications in the field of

  • Self-harm  - A proposed mixed methods study will appeal to candidates keen to work with a large data set, it utilises data from the Belfast Youth Development Study (BYDS) to advance public health knowledge on self-harm among young people. The Belfast Youth Development Study (BYDS) is a longitudinal cohort study involving over 4000 young people in Northern Ireland – the study spanned ages 11 to 21 years (2001-2011) and included over 40 schools. Over time comprehensive data on substance use, mental health, self-harm, family, schools, neighbourhoods, offending behaviour was Methodology - Phase 1 (quantitative phase) multilevel logistic regression/multilevel models (qualitative phase), the results of the quantitative analysis will be used design an interview schedule which aims to shed light on the nature of the relationship between the predictors and self-harm behaviour.
  • Sexual-health  This project aims to focus on sexual activity indicators and how these are shaped by family context , peers , schools , other risky child behaviours and outcomes in late adolescence and early adulthood.  These aims will be achieved via secondary analysis of the Belfast Youth Development Study (BYDS), a longitudinal cohort study of over 4000 young people form Belfast, Ballymena and Downpatrick. BYDS collected seven sweeps of data over a ten year period (2001-2011) spanning ages 11-21 years
  • Secondary Trauma - The proposed study will use data from the 2018/19 Belfast Youth Development feasibility study (BYDS) which includes a comprehensive range of measures related to trauma and secondary trauma (n = 360). A subsample of these participants (aged 30 years), including those who previously reported a secondary trauma, will be followed up to allow in depth analysis of trauma transmission. 

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Public outreach & key achievements

  • Dr Higgin's work has led to new ways of working with people in this field and how we collect and disseminate
    data for use in building policies and legislation.

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