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CATS event to mark relocation to Church Farm House

apresci logoOn Thursday 18th May CATS held a reception to officially mark and celebrate its relocation to the wonderful Church Farm House building, a historic Grade II listed 17th century farmhouse in Hendon, recently acquired by the Middlesex University. The event was introduced by Prof Tim Blackman, Vice Chancellor of Middlesex University, who stressed the importance of research to inform student learning and social policy. This was followed by short presentations by centre’s Co-directors Julia Davidson and Antonia Bifulco. Julia outlined her EU projects looking at online risks around abuse and cybercrime and Antonia described her ESRC online measure of stress and depression including findings with students. The projects seek to extend our knowledge in criminology and clinical psychology, as well as link to new MSc’s and to student learning and wellbeing. The research centre is vibrant and future plans ambitious. The event was attended by Dean and proVC for Research Martin Loomes, and Dean for Health and Education, Jan Williams, as well as staff from the Centre and linked departments and research collaborators.


CATS co-director Julia Davidson contributes to government drive for internet safety

apresci logoMiddlesex University’s Professor Julia Davidson, LSE’s Professor Sonia Livingstone and Dr Joanne Bryce from the University of Central Lancashire have been commissioned by the government to produce a report detailing how young people use the internet, the dangers they face and the issues with safeguarding them.

The report will be part of a new Internet Safety Strategy aimed at making Britain the safest country in the world for children and young people to be online. It comes after recent research revealed parents are more concerned about their children ‘sexting’ than drinking or smoking.

“The UKCCI’s Evidence Group literature review is an important undertaking that will guide this key government initiative aiming to summarise current and recent UK research across a range of areas including children's use of the Internet, safety and victimisation,” she says.

“It is most important that good research evidence underpin policy and practice initiatives in this way, highlighting areas of concern and pointing to recent emerging issues such as youth radicalisation, pathways into illegal hacking and online gaming.”


CATS moves into Hendon’s oldest dwelling

apresci logoCATS is now based in the former home of the Church Farmhouse Museum after Middlesex University undertook vital restoration work on the Grade II* listed building. Situated just a short walk from the Middlesex campus in north London, the former home of the Church Farm Museum had fallen into disrepair following its closure in 2011, but has now been lovingly restored by the University. CATS Co-director Professor Julia Davidson said moving across the road from campus to the Greyhound Hill location will foster the development of both research centres. “We are delighted to be based in this historic building which provides an ideal location for our research exploring abuse, victimisation and wellbeing in real world and digital contexts, which has an international, national and local focus,” she said. “The move will enable us to extend our dissemination and continuing professional development, as well as to engage more effectively at local level.” CATS is sharing the residency of the building with the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC).


Wine reception at the House of Commons

apresci logoToni Bifulco and Richard Barry attended a wine reception at the House of Commons on 11th October to describe the 'Securing Change' initiative. This has been developed by St Michael's Fellowship in which the CATS team and Middlesex are invited to have a research evaluation role. The reception was opened by Chuka Amunna MP for Streatham (where the charity is based) who described his support for the venture. Following a video shown of parents who had been helped by St Michaels, Sue Pettigrew (CEO), described the Securing Change intervention with parents who have had multiple children removed by child protection services, with an aim to break this cycle of problem parenting. Ton Bifulco talked briefly about the existing partnership with St Michaels led by Richard and aided by Lisa Kagan and Sarah Edwards, around evidence-based assessment and evaluation and the commitment to help improve outcomes for the families.


New CATS and Europol report sheds light on youth hacking

apresci logo CATS and the European CyberCrime Centre (EC3) at Europol have published the results of a joint eleven month investigation on ‘Youth Pathways into Cybercrime'. Led by CATS Co-Director Professor of Criminology Julia Davidson, Professor Mary Aiken and Dr Phillip Amman from EC3, the focus of the research was on adolescent hackers and associated behaviour. Professor Davidson says the penalties for involvement in cybercrime are not always understood by young people. Read more...


CATS Co-director gives keynote lecture at 'Applying Relationships Science to Contemporary Interventions' project conference

apresci logoOn 22nd September Professor Antonia Bifulco was invited to present a keynote lecture at the ApReSci series of ESRC funded lectures at University of Bristol. The theme for the day was: Wider applications of attachment theory in contemporary interventions. Prof Bifulco’s session was entitled: Attachment and child trauma: implications for assessment and treatment of families. The other keynote speaker was Prof David Shemmings: Using Attachment Theory in Child Protection Practice. In addition there were a number of other very interesting sessions on issues around attachment. The session was really well attended, and included both academics and practitioners/clinicians which led to interesting discussion on the application of attachment theory to both research and practice. Prof Bifulco's presentation can be accessed here.


CLEAR project in the media


CATS Co-director Toni Bifulco was invited to participate in a podcast, one of a series run on resilience, by Russell Thackeray of QED experts in change management in organisations. The discussion was quite wide ranging on resilience in everyday life and in relation to vulnerable populations. Issues of childhood adversity, different attachment styles and responses to stress were outlined. Its application to stress in the workplace was also discussed. Toni Bifulco drew on research into resilience across the lifespan. Resilience factors include secure attachment style, good support and effective coping strategies. She also outlined her team's latest ESRC project 'Stress Online' a computerised assessment of life events which provides a relatively objective assessment of recent stressful experience. This is to be offered to different agencies in assessing stress, vulnerability and resilience, including organisations in relation to worker stress, and voluntary agencies in relation to client stress. Listen to the podcast episode.


BBC4 logoResearch by Professor Antonia Bifulco and Dr David Westley was picked up by Radio 4 recently in their show called “The Science of Resilience”, you can listen to it here.

Presenter Sian Williams used the discussion by psychologists expert on resilience to relate to her own recent experience of breast cancer and invasive surgery. She looked a bio-psycho-social aspects of both stress and resilience.

Professor Bifulco told presenter Sian Williams about the new measure developed by the Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies. The Computerised Life Events Assessment Record (CLEAR) is an online measure, that collects personal information about the self and close others. It looks in detail at life change, particularly that stressful, experienced over the past year related to relationships, health or lifestyle. The measure provides a feedback report that identifies the number of stressors the respondent has experienced as well as which ones are contextually the most severely threatening. It also identifies vulnerability through looking at insecure attachment style, and provides a depression symptom count. A measure of wellbeing also enables an assessment of resilience to be made in the face of stress.

Professor Westley discussed the mechanisms within the brain that are affected when someone experiences a challenging event. Including the importance of the amgydala and what techniques might be able to boost resilience by training yourself to focus away from threat and towards more positive stimuli.


New research project award to CATS: National Volunteer Police Cadets Programme

children's commissioner logoCATS have been awarded a Police Innovation Fund grant, in conjunction with the National Volunteer Police Cadets to complete research assisting in the national role out of the cadet programme across all police forces, as well as developing a longitudinal evaluation system. Additionally, the bid will embed a new innovative digital platform and adult volunteers’ training programme in support of local units. The evaluation, led by Jeffrey DeMarco and with both Professors' Julia Davidson and Antonia Bifulco as co-investigators, will explore the utility of engaging with the police through the cadet programme. This will include investigating the cadets psychopathology, trust and attitudes towards the police. This bid is supported by 39 Police and Crime Commissioners, as well as the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime; the Police Chiefs Council; Home Office; and the College of Policing. Dr DeMarco and the team from Middlesex University will analyse and report on how the digital platform will provide a rich source of obtaining and utilising this data. ln addition, they will explore social and psychological outcomes as well as levels of attitudes, confidence, trust in authority and the police. The use of this data will feed into concepts of procedural justice, improving youth-police, and public-police relationships, and community engagement'


New research project to help prevent teenagers becoming involved in cybercrime

children's commissioner logoProfessor Julia Davidson will lead research investigating the motivations behind juvenile cybercrime. The research, ‘Young People and Pathways into Cybercrime’, will be led by Middlesex University (Professor Davidson and Research Fellow Dr Jeffrey DeMarco) and Hawaii Pacific University (Professor Mary Aiken, who is also a Research Fellow at Middlesex, and Professor Steve Chan) with colleagues from University College Dublin and supported by the European Cybercrime Centre. The research will investigate what leads young people to cyber criminality in order to develop effective awareness, prevention, intervention, educational and mentoring strategies. Specifically it will explore the potential pathway from ‘cyber juvenile delinquency’ to lone cybercriminal to organised cybercrime. Read more here.
The project has been listed on THES 'Grant Winners' page.


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Recommendations made by Children’s Commissioner based on panel inquiry led by specialists including CATS Co-Director Prof Julia Davidson

children's commissioner logoChildren's Commissioner for has made 11 recommendations to help better protect children from intra-familial sexual abuse based on the findings of a panel that included Middlesex University and CATS Co-Director Professor Julia Davidson. Its research found that only one in eight children who are sexually abused are identified by professionals because the police and social services are geared towards children self-referring or reporting abuse. Using a statistical model known as Multiple Systems Estimation, the panel estimated that between 400,000 and 450,000 children in England were victims of sexual abuse over the two-year period from April 2012 to March 2014. However, only approximately 50,000 children were known to the authorities over the same time span. Read more ...


CATS Co-Director Prof Davidson joins Europol Cybercrime Centre think tank

ec europolProfessor Julia Davidson has been selected to join a Europol Cybercrime Centre (EC3) think tank based at The Hague in the Netherlands. EC3 is the focal point in the EU's fight against cybercrime, and the purpose of the new think tank will be to facilitate assessment of current and future trends and developments in the online sphere. The small group of experts forming the think tank have each been nominated on the basis of their outstanding expertise and contributions in their area of research. Read full story here.


Healing the Wounds of Violence

healingwoundsofviolenceOn Thursday 14 July 2015 the first ever conference was held to share best practice around interventions on youth violence in Accident and Emergency hospital settings. The conference was funded by the Psychology department at Middlesex through its Knowledge Exchange resources and organised by CATS. It was welcomed and well attended by agencies and professionals employed in this field. In fact it was so successful that, according to its organisers, a follow up conference will subsequently be funded by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and a network of professionals will be established.

Antonia Bifulco, Professor of Lifespan Psychology and co-Director of CATS said: “The conference was a great success. CATS have been working for five years on a youth violence support service at St Thomas' Hospital with Oasis voluntary agency but it was fantastic to hear from a whole range of professionals who deal with this issue. The idea of the day was to share best practice. There was much enthusiasm for the really good work being undertaken and the opportunity to share practice and evaluation expertise was much appreciated. The group will continue to work together to form a network.”


CATS director Julia Davidson selected to join the Academic Advisory Board to the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Professor of Criminology Julia Davidson has been selected to join the Academic Advisory Board providing research advice to the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse led by Justice Lowell Goddard.

UK Home Secretary Theresa May launched the statutory inquiry in March this year to consider the extent to which state and non-state institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

The Academic Advisory Board will provide academic advice on methods used for analysing data, the development of commissions for targeted research and help to ensure that all ethical considerations are incorporated into research strands of the inquiry.

Read full story here


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CATS visits Sicily for EC Project partner and conference on childhood exploitation online

euThe ISEC Illegal Use of the Internet Project team, composed of Prof Julia Davidson (Principal Investigator), Prof Antonia Bifulco (Co-investigator) and Jeffrey DeMarco (Project Research Fellow) recently had the opportunity to meet with their international collaborators and present preliminary findings from their ongoing policing survey.

Professor Bifulco opened the conference with a discussion of the causes and consequences of childhood sexual abuse. This was followed by a joint effort between Professor Davidson and Jeffrey looking at the difficulties being reported by British police in dealing with the investigation, prevention and intervention of crimes perpetrated against minors in cyberspace. Colleague Mary Aiken, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, explored the interface between the social sciences, law enforcement and technology whilst Professor Stefan Bogaerts from Tilburg University in the Netherlands presented research on the risk factors of identified and unidentified paedophiles. Professor Vincenzo Caretti emphasised the importance of the research being conducted by the current project and the teams previous European Online Grooming Project, with direct links to psychopathology and mental disorders. Finally, Dr. Elisa Corbari discussed the issues from the victim’s perspectives. The presentations were complimentary, providing all angles for considering in the conceptualisation and contextualisation of these crimes. Co-Investigator Professor Adriano Schimmenti, UKE provided overture to the presentations, and served as the organiser and chief facilitator of the successful day.

The conference was hosted by the University of Enna, Sicily. For the full presentations, please visit the project website on www.euchildsafetyonlineproject.com/reports.php


CATS PhD student inspires hit new US TV show:

Oscar-winning actress Patricia Arquette plays cyberpsychology expert Mary Aiken in CSI:Cyber

Mary Aiken, who is completing her PhD in forensic cyberpsychology at Middlesex University, supervised by CATS co-director Prof Julia Davidson, is the inspiration behind the latest Crime Scene Investigation TV spin-off CSI:Cyber. Mary first came to the attention of TV bosses when she presented on human trafficking at the White House in 2013 in her role as director of the Cyber Psychology Research Centre in Dublin.

With an increasing percentage of crimes involving computer activity, Mary's expertise is in high demand and she frequently provides advice to major crime-fighting agencies including INTERPOL, the Metropolitan Police and the Los Angeles Police Department on areas such as cyber security, cyber stalking and virtual behavioural profiling. Not only has the show been based on her, in Mary's role as a producer she is heavily involved in the script-writing process, which draws from real-life examples of cybercrime. As a result, she sees huge educational value in the TV show. "The attraction for me was [that] this is an incredible platform to reach out to people and to talk to them about cybersecurity and cyber safety messaging," Read more.


Supporting Mental Health through the Arts: Prof Toni Bifulco presents at a theatre performance 22nd March 2015

Toni Bifulco was invited to present on childhood abuse issues in relation to a theatre performance ‘Can I start again’ by Sue MacLaine, on 22 March 2015. This was part of the SICK! Festival, based in both Brighton and Manchester and funded by the Arts Council and Wellcome Trust. Its aim is to increase awareness and decrease stigma to mental health and identity issues, through theatre performance linked to commentary by academic psychologists to inform audiences and enhance discussion.

The performance at The Basement theatre, Brighton, was a new play for two actors which focused on being able to disclose and make sense of childhood experience of sexual abuse. It utilised a mixture of speaking and sign language and was thus able to reach members of the audience who were deaf. But the signing was also symbolic of not being heard as a child when abuse takes place. The performance played to a full house and received a very positive and warm reception. The presentation afterwards by Toni Bifulco was also well received and she together with the writer and actors comprised a panel chaired by Fabia Bates from a survivors group. There was an interesting Q&A session and discussion.


MIDDLESEX MINDS: new blog with regular CATS contributions

Research news and thought-provoking views from the experts at Middlesex University now on mdxminds.com Our own CATS staff will be contributing on issues close to our hearts: research, teaching and practitioner training on abuse issues, around offenders, victims, criminal justice and social services practitioners. This includes experience of physical abuse/domestic violence; stress, attachment, psychological abuse and sexual abuse/sexual assaults in children, adolescents and adults. In our first blog entry Professor Julia Davidson, CATS Co-Director, and her colleague Jeffrey DeMarco, CATS Research Fellow, reveal some early findings from their latest research project on fostering collaboration between the police and the industry in investigating sexual crimes perpetrated online against children.

We will be tweeting as we go along, so follow us on twitter for blog updates!


Partnership with St Michael’s Fellowship

smf logoCATS have recently agreed a training and research partnership with St Michael’s Fellowship, an independent provider of both residential and community based family assessment services in London. Initial training of St Michaels’ staff on the Parenting Role Interview (PRI) has commenced, delivered by Professor Toni Bifulco and Dr Andrea Oskis, and further trainings on the PRI, Attachment Style Interview (ASI), and Childhood Experience of Care & Abuse (CECA) interview will take place over the next few months. A research project, funded by Middlesex University Psychology Department and led by Dr Richard Barry & Dr Andrea Oskis, aims to evaluate the impact of the use of the PRI on the assessment processes and on staff at St Michael’s, using a combination of semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and family case studies. This growing partnership provides CATS with an opportunity to evaluate and develop its standardised measures in the context of family assessment and child protection, as well as their use with specific groups such as parents with learning difficulties.


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The impacts of viewing pornography on children and young people

CATS researcher Dr Elena Martellozzo, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Dr Miranda Horvath, Associate Professor in Forensic Psychology at Middlesex University and Deputy Director of Forensic Psychological Services, will conduct research and work on the impacts of viewing pornography on children and young people. The research has been commissioned by National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) and the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). In 2013 Dr Horvath lead a Rapid Evidence Assessment, commissioned by the OCC, on the effects that access and exposure to pornography can have on children and young people. Now the research will focus on the views of young people and children. The project is planned to commence in February 2015. Read more


UKCCIS seminar on Identifying Children's Risk-Taking Behaviour Online

CATS co-director Professor Julia Davidson and Tink Palmer from the Marie Collins Foundation organised and chaired this event as part of UKCCIS seminar series. The seminar, which took place on 30 September 2014 at CEOP, aimed to present some of the latest research in the child online safety area and to consider how research might effectively inform practice. A short summary of key presentations and emergent issues can be read here.


Project Oracle Success

The CATS team are delighted to be joint winners with Oasis in The Annual Evidence Awards competition held by Project Oracle. Project Oracle is London's youth evidence hub. The programme seeks to understand and share what really works in improving the lives of children and young people. Oasis Youth Support project submission was one of 3 projects to win the Project Oracle Standard 2 Evidence Competition in an event last month. The award and prize money signify recognition of the project’s commitment to evaluate its services and provide a solid evidence base for ‘what works’ in their effort to reduce violence amongst young people in London. More information can be found here: link.


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CATS newsletter!

We are delighted to be able to share some exciting news and developments!
Read our June 2014 Newsletter here.

d the latest CATS Newsletter

Inaugural Professorial Lecture by Professor Antonia Bifulco

sm1Professor Antonia Bifulco gave her Inaugural Professorial Lecture: 'Lifestress and Depression: the Importance of Meaning and Measurement'. on Tuesday 8th July. The lecture was well attended and well received! "Depression is a serious and debilitating disorder, highly prevalent in the community and judged to be one of the major disorders worldwide of increasing concern for public and clinical health policy. Its causes are multiple, but life stress is shown to be a major contributor. However, the specific association of life events to disorder has in recent times become blurred, in large part due to the choice of questionnaire approaches to life events in research, particularly that around genetic contributions to depressive vulnerability. Using intensive interview tools which can capture the context and meaning of experience and yet achieve objective scoring procedures can provide more sensitive and extensive markers of stressful experience..." We thank everyone who attended!

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OCC project: Assessing the Evidence Base in Relation to Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse

Project update - 3rd July: the findings have now been published. The report can be viewed here.

The Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies and Forensic Psychological Services at Middlesex University were commissioned by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) to conduct a Rapid Evidence Assessment on Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). The project was co led by Prof Julia Davidson and Dr Miranda Horvath. The research focused on:

  • What is known about the nature, scale, scope and impact of intrafamilial CSA or CSA linked to the family environment at national and international level?
  • Where do gaps in knowledge lie? What types of intra-familial abuse are perpetrated online?
  • What is known from the evidence about child protection and other action in response to victims and/or perpetrators of intrafamilial CSA or CSA linked to the family environment?
  • Where are the gaps in these approaches?
  • What are the implications of all of the above when considering child protection activity and any legislative or formal guidance required to tackle intrafamilial CSA or CSA linked to the family environment?

The findings have been published by the OCC will inform policy and practice in this area.

Media reports:
Children not protected from family abuse Alarming gaps" in knowledge about abuse within families mean "substantial numbers" of children are not adequately protected (BBC link)
Study reveals ‘alarming’ knowledge gaps around child sexual abuse within the family - Office of the Children's Commissioner launches two-year inquiry, says social workers must be more alert. (Community Care link)
'Difficult' rape cases, Mr Grieve? All victims deserve justice - The Children's Commissioner today published a critical report on child sexual abuse in the family, where there are few detections, investigations or prosecutions. Those children deserve justice, as do all victims of sexual violence, however difficult their cases might be. (The Guardian link)
Daily roundup: Sexual abuse, mental health and victims of crime -England's children's commissioner to investigate child sexual abuse in the family; serious case review criticises mental health services in Barrow; and offender fines fund help for young crime victims, all in the news today. (Children & Young People Now)

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CATS training workshops in Italy

22Professor Bifulco was invited by CATS associate Dr Vittoria Ardino from the LSE to run brief training sessions for practitioners in Italy at a two day workshop hosted by SISST (Italian Society for Stress and Trauma Studies) with CISMAI (Coordinated Italian services for the control of child maltreatment) for 100 practitioners from social care and psychological services. The workshop covered both assessment of neglect and abuse using the CECA and attachment style measures for children. Prof Giannone also presented her Italian validation of the CECA. We are hoping for further collaboration with SISST and CISMAI to pilot and then roll out the CECA for practitioners in helping with assessment in child protection cases across Italy in 2015.

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Inaugural Professorial Lecture by Professor Julia Davidson

Prof Davidson gave her Inaugural professorial lecture on the 21st May. It was well attended and well received. Her talk was entitled The Evolution of Children’s Online Behaviour and Experience of Online Harm'. Reflections on Research with young people, perpetrators and practitioners. In less than two decades, the Internet has moved from being a communications medium used by some to an everyday tool used in every aspect of our lives. The technological aspects of the Internet are developing at the same high speed as the number of users globally. The Internet provides a social context for us to meet with others and to exchange information on a scale that past generations would not have thought possible. International research suggests that, although access may vary, children and young people are avid and enthusiastic users of technology regardless of culture, religion and geographical location. Research in the UK has demonstrated that children are increasingly using handheld technology (OFCOM, 2014), our research with young people suggests that technology is increasingly an integral aspect of their lives (Webster, Davidson & Bifuclo, 2014 forthcoming). This lecture considered the impact of new technology upon children’s lives and reflected upon online harm, set in the context of key policy issues including children’s access to justice, mandatory reporting of child abuse and recent high profile cases. The lecture drew upon personal reflection and a substantial body of national and international research with children, practitioners and offenders.

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CATS Symposium accepted for prestigious British Psychological Society Annual Conference

BPS The CATS team are pleased to have had their latest Symposium Application for BPS annual conference 2014 accepted following a successful presentation in 2013. This year Alongside Dr Vittoria Ardino from Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, they presented on the theme ‘Parenting in vulnerable groups: implications for clinical health, social care and criminal justice agencies’. The symposium, which took place in Birmingham on the 7th May 2014, sought to explore parenting as an issue in vulnerable groups in terms of its consequences for family stability, parent-child interaction and the mental health of parent and offspring. This was discussed in relation to four risk groups: families whose mothers have depression risk; those seeking family support through inadequate care of children, support provision for families of offenders and costs of services for youth in transition. Costs to services, families and society if parenting interventions are not delivered in appropriate models of services was also discussed. Professor Bifulco outlined an attachment approach investigating parenting in intergenerational transmission of risk for emotional disorder in a community sample of women with risk for major depression. CATs researcher Catherine Jacobs looked at the piloting of the Parental Role Interview (devised in the first study) in social care practice and at models of its use in supporting families. Given parenting is often overlooked in prison populations, the third presentation by CATs Jeffrey DeMarco outlined a recent Ministry of Justice review examining provision of parenting programmes for offenders and their families. Finally, Dr Ardino presented the consequences of problem parenting in relation to health and social care costs, examined in terms of access to transition services for youth at risk.


CATS paper awarded 'Highly Commended paper for 2013'

jpmhA paper written by the CATS team describing the evaluation undertaken of the St.Thomas’ Youth Violence Intervention was selected to receive the award of a Highly Commended paper for 2013 by the editorial board of the Journal of Public Mental Health (Emerald Publishing). The paper entitled “Setting up a youth violence prevention project in a London hospital emergency department” is a snapshot of the service, its set-up, assimilation into the ED and initial description of sample and risk. It includes data drawn from the quantitative assessment of the young people, the survey of ED staff awareness of the project and qualitative findings from a focus group and interviews. We are very pleased to receive this award and share the honour with our colleagues working on the project and the young people helped by it. This paper (free access) can be viewed here.


CATS awarded a grant by the EC ISEC Fund

euDeveloping Research Informed Good Practice Policing and Industry Collaborative Models in Preventing Online Child Abuse and Profiling Child Victims' project has been funded, the PI is Julia Davidson. The EC contribution for the whole project will be €595,953.18. The research will begin in September 2014 and includes partners in the Netherlands, Ireland and Italy. The project seeks to draw together the existing, recent evidence base on offender online behaviour including online grooming and accessing indecent child images, and to identify policing and industry best practice in prevention. The project will ultimately seek to promote cooperation between law enforcement and industry in developing and disseminating good practice models in this area, thus promoting greater online safety for children and young people. The project will seek to explore current industry practice and law enforcement-industry cooperation aiming to produce good practice models and guidelines. The outputs will have wide relevance beyond the EU.


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CATS launch in Middlesex

staffCATS held its internal launch at the university on Tuesday 25th March. It was introduced by the Dean of Law, Joshua Castellano, with speeches by key professional partners of the Centre, Peter Spindler (HMIC) for the police and Ron Giddens (children’s services manager St Christopher’s Fellowship) for Health and Social Care. The ongoing Centre projects were outlined by the directors Prof Julia Davidson and Prof Antonia Bifulco, with questions for the university audience about how to integrate CATS within Psychology and Criminology and more broadly in the University (see www.cats-rp.org.uk). The session was well attended with colleagues from a range of departments, with potential new research and knowledge exchange opportunities with Social Work, Nursing, Education and Law.
View CATS launch presentation.


Emotional cruelty to children to become a criminal offence

cecaThere has been recent media interest and debate about government plans to introduce a new offence of emotional cruelty to children, known as the ‘Cinderella Law’. This has been supported in Parliament by Robert Buckland MP and a campaign spearheaded by Action for Children. Part of the discussion concerned whether emotional cruelty was measureable. At CATS we have been researching and running training courses for many years on assessment of childhood neglect/abuse, including one day workshops on operational definitions of emotional abuse in the CECA (Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse).

Prof Bifulco states: ‘Research we have undertaken over many years in the CATS centre clearly shows that emotional abuse in childhood and adolescence, creates lasting damage in terms of psychological disorder (both emotional and behavioural) and damages the attachment system which impedes the development of positive relationships. It is defined in terms of two sets of parental behaviours, those involving ‘antipathy’ (critical, hostile and cold parenting), and those involving ‘Psychological Abuse’ (coercive and sadistic control involving humiliation, terrorising and other behaviours). However, often practitioners are confused about the definitions and the thresholds at which damage can occur. Our one-day CECA workshops on emotional abuse and neglect, clarify the definitions, the behavioural indicators in parents/carers and the levels of severity indicating when intervention is required. These workshops are popular with social workers in child protection, family support and psychologists in CAMHS. CATS supports the introduction of this law, in order to improve lives for children and identify the full extent of maltreatment when it occurs to aid prevention.’  


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NSPCC conference presentation: The Evolution of Children's Online Behaviour

Prof Davidson recently did a talk titled 'The Evolution of children's Online Behaviour' at an International NSPCC conference in London along with NSPCC Young Campaigners. International research suggests that, although access may vary, children and young people are avid and enthusiastic users of technology regardless of geographical location (Davidson & Martellozzo, 2012: Livingstone, 2013). Research in the UK has demonstrated that children are increasingly using handheld technology and that very young children have access to the Internet (OFCOM, 2013). Our research with young people suggests that technology is increasingly an integral aspect of their lives (Webster, Davidson & Bifuclo, 2014 forthcoming). This talk considered the way in which children’s online behaviour has evolved, reflecting upon both the positive impact and potentially negative consequences. The aim of the talk was also to consider strategies and protective techniques developed by young people (who participated in the session) in response to potential online harm.
View full presentation here.


ESRC project grant

esrcWe are delighted to report that Prof Antonia Bifulco and colleagues at CATS have been awarded an ERC project grant of £480,000 for 3 years from this January 2014. The title is ‘Stress online: Developing a reliable and valid interactive online method for measuring stressful life events and difficulties.’ The project is in partnership with researchers from Goldsmiths University and Kings College, London. Read more


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CATS Child internet Safety in Suriname

Professor Davidson has recently visited Suriname in South America to deliver a series of lectures based upon research undertaken by CATS focusing on: Child online safety, managing and risk assessing serious offenders and online child abuse. The lectures were delivered to practitioners (psychologists and teachers) and the public. She also worked on an awareness raising campaign with the national media which included television interviews ( ATV & ABC television), a radio broadcast (Apinte Radio) and a national newspaper article. She will return to the country to help set up Internet safety practice. The selection of photos below show some of the media work and selected images from Suriname.

Photographs: Glenn Davidson© 2014


CATS relaunch event at the House of Lords, 5 December 2013: Key Child Protection Challenges in the Real and Digital Worlds: Implications for Research, Policy & Practice

relaunchWe are delighted to report that we held our House of Lords event on Thursday 5 December. CATS has moved to Middlesex University and to mark this stage in our development we held a launch and seminar event. The event was introduced by Baroness Royall, Labour Leader of the House and Prof Waqar Ahmad, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Middlesex University and included keynote presentations from Peter Spindler (HMIC and author of 'Giving Victims a Voice' (Operation Yewtree) and Profesor Eileen Munro, CBE (LSE, author of the Munro Review of Child Protection, 2010), with a high level panel discussion focusing upon 'Key Child Protection Challenges in the Real and Digital worlds: Implications for Research, Policy & Practice'.

View summary of the event with policy recommendations.


CATS Director keynote speaker at BPS Forensic Division conference: Attachment, childhood experience and young offenders, 18 November 2013, London

Prof Bifulco will be presenting on the topic of Attachment, childhood experience and adolescent disorder in the context of youth offending. She will be supported by partners Claire Evans from St Christopher’s Fellowship (residential care services) and Rachel Edwards from SWAAY (service for young sexual offenders). Visit British Psychological Society website for more details on the conference and to book a place.


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Prof Davidson speaking at the meeting of the Interpol Specialist Crimes Against Children Group (of which she is a Member) at Interpol HQ in Lyon, 29th October 2013.

lyon jdRecent research has explored young people’s online behaviour (Livingstone, 2011, 2012, 2013) there is however little research exploring the experience and behaviours of children and young people victimised via the internet , particularly those who have been subjected to sexual abuse. Research has been conducted in the US which describes online victimisation in the general child population (Wolak & Finkelhor, 2012) but this hasn’t focused upon online interaction between children and perpetrators. This lecture will present the findings from three recent key studies (Loof & Quayle, 2012., Webster, Davidson & Bifulco, 2013., Bergen et al 2013.) exploring issues surrounding online child victimisation including: Victim behaviour on SNS; offender victim selection and targeting; identity deception in sexual solicitation and victims experience of abuse. This research suggests that some young people are more vulnerable to online sexual abuse either through their online behaviour or due to prior experience of abuse and also suggests that offenders are likely to actively seek out vulnerable children who are seen as more likely to interact.

The key research studies and references: Quayle, E., Jonsson, L. & Loof, L. (2012) ‘Online behaviour related to child sexual abuse Interviews with affected young people’; Webster, S., Davidson, J. & Bifulco, A. ‘Online Offending Behaviour and Child Victimisation: New findings and Policy’ Palgrave (Forthcoming 2013); Bergen, E., Davidson, J., Johanssen, A.,Santtila, P., Schulz, A. & Schuman, P. ‘The effect of using identity deception and suggesting secrecy on the outcome of adult-adult and adult-child or adolescent online sexual interactions’. Victims & Offenders (2013, forthcoming).

View full presentation by Prof Julia Davidson: Child Online Victimisation & Offender Identity Deception  

NEW assessment measure: Attachment Style Interview for Children

Lifespan are pleased to announce news on our development of a new standardised asssesment tool to measure attachment in primary school aged children (age 7-12). This new Child Attachment Style measure is now in the phase of final analysis and draft publication. We would like to alert services to this new development and hope to work with a few in the near future to further pilot the work in Child and Family Services prior to rolling it out, to fully evaluate its effectiveness. Our standardised research tool Attachment Style Interview (ASI) for adults, followed by the Adolescent version (ASI-AD), have long been used in adoption, fostering and child protection services to determine whether there is insecurity in the attachment style of parents, carers and prospective parents. This has proved a very effective assessment of both risk and resilience in individuals and couples. However, there is also a need for child measures of attachment style. This is useful for matching child to parent in adoption settings; to establish the impacts of poor parenting on children, and to examine in relation to intervention and therapeutic change. Please let us know if you are interested in any aspects of this new approach Lifespantraining@mdx.ac.uk. For more information download the Child ASI flyer.


CATS partnership with the Bowlby Centre

CATS are pleased to announce a partnership with the Bowlby Centre, well known for its Attachment approach to psychodynamic training. Kate White, the editor of the Journal of Attachment—new directions in psychotherapy and relational psychoanalysis, has published widely on attachment theory and treatment and will represent the Centre on the CATS steering board. www.thebowlbycentre.org.uk


Understanding Adult Attachment in Family Relationships: Research, Assessment and Intervention,
by Antonia Bifulco and Geraldine Thomas

Attachment theory has become a key focus of both research and practice in understanding and treating psychological and social risk for marital and relationship problems, parenting and clinical disorders. In particular, adult attachment style is a key explanatory factor for understanding problems in human relationships. This practical book introduces and explains an easily accessible assessment tool for adult attachment style, the Attachment Style Interview (ASI), an invaluable and evidence-based resource that is particularly useful for multiagency practitioners working with children and families, including in adoption and fostering, child Safeguarding, ‘Looked After’ and therapeutic services. Based on extensive research study, it then discusses appropriate interventions and case assessments that can be made to help families in need. The book can now be ordered from Amazon or directly from the publisher (see attached flyer for publisher's discount offer).


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If you are a member of the press, or would like to contact us regarding any media-related matters, please contact:

Prof Julia Davidson j.davidson at mdx.ac.uk or

Prof Antonia Bifulco antonia.bifulco at mdx.ac.uk


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