CATS Projects - recent and ongoing projects

Online at CATS

The Internet Watch Foundation study project

children's commissioner logoDr. Jeffrey DeMarco, Post-doctoral Research Fellow and Dr. Elena Martellozzo, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, both of CATS have successfully presented and been granted a research award from the Internet Watch Foundation ?(IWF); an organisation which exists to assist removing illegal indecent content online, thus keeping young people safe and risk-free. Specifically, the bid will look into the Notice to Takedown (NTD) processes administered by the IWF but with its industry and corporate partners; the utility and functionality of its URL list, a critical element to protecting young people online and preventing the availability and dissemination of indecent context; and engagement with a wide-range of stakeholders from across industry, third sector, law enforcement and government, to bring further transparency and understanding to the organisations performance and placement within prevention and intervention narratives. The research is to last for 18 months and will apply a variety of methodological procedures in the pursuit of the above findings. The pair will serve as co-Principal investigators.


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'.


Young People and Pathways into Cybercrime

The Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS) at Middlesex University, in partnership with the European CyberCrime Centre (EC3) at Europol have finalized and published the results of an eleven month investigation into Youth Pathways into Cybercrime. Led by Professor Julia Davidson, Professor Mary Aiken and Dr. Phillip Amman, the focus of the research was on adolescent hackers and associated behaviour. Engaging with a range of stakeholders from law enforcement, mental health and education, as well as framing the work within the literature base, the report provides key recommendations for policy; multi-disciplinary prevention and intervention; and the encouragement of identifying talented and able youth fluent within technological understanding. The report argues the importance of developing a 'Technology Quotient' (T.Q.) in line with measurements of intelligence and emotion, and to draw attention away from the labeling and criminalization of youth 'hacking', especially with questionable acts and behaviours online to one of awareness raising, recognition of talent and transparency to the criminal justice process. Key stakeholders included the National Crime Agency, Interpol, Europol and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation amongst others. Read the final project report here.


'Developing Research Informed Good Practice Policing and Industry Collaborative Models in Preventing Online Child Abuse and Profiling Child Victims'

euThis project was funded by the EC ISEC fund (€695,953.18, PI Professor Julia Davidson). The research, which started in September 2014, included partners in the Netherlands, Ireland and Italy. The project sought 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 aim of the project is 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 explored current industry practice and law enforcement-industry cooperation aiming to produce good practice models and guidelines. The research included national police surveys and surveys exploring youth experience of victimisation in 3 countries. The findings have wide relevance beyond the EU. Full project report can be read here.


The impacts of viewing pornography on children and young peoplenspcc

CATS researchers 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, with Profs Julia Davidson and Joanna Adler, have conducted research on the impact of viewing pornography on children and young people. The research was 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).



Cyberbullying amongst young people: A comparison of the UK and Qatar

Bullying and cyberbullying are currently high-profile concerns for health practitioners, policymakers, schools, teachers, parents, children, and communities. The potential for cyberbullying has grown with the increasing penetration of networked computers and mobile phones among young people all over the world. A recent study in the UK suggested that 1 in 5 children have experienced cyberbullying (Davidson et al, 2011). However, although there has been some recent research in the UK, research on traditional and cyber bullying and anti-bullying interventions and policies is lacking in Qatar and the Middle East region. These issues need to be investigated, since cyberbullying causes huge distress to the victim (Ybarra et al., 2006), and the potential breadth of the audience for cyberbullying acts serves to intensify impact. The study is a cross-cultural, longitudinal study that investigates cyberbullying in Qatari and UK schools amongst a large sample of children aged 12-16(N=3000). The objectives are to compare rates of traditional and cyber bullying, explore possible risk factors and examine the health consequences.

The study aims to:.
1. Describe the incidence and nature of bullying in the converged online-offline environment experienced in Qatar and the UK (age 11-16).
2. Evaluate diagnostic tools used by health practitioners when diagnosing problems related to cyberbullying; evaluate the adequacy of the current socio-legal and policy context and literature review
3. investigate the risk factors of cyberbullying amongst children and adolescents in a smaller sub-sample in Qatar and the UK (500 from each country). Baseline interviews with health practitioners will also be conducted.
Lead researchers: Dr Muthana Sumara, Kingston University Prof Julia Davidson, Middlesex University Prof Peter Smith, Goldsmiths College, University of London


Online Child Sexual Abuse in the MENA Region

This research was funded under the WeProtect initiative with UNICEF. The CATS aspect of the work was led by Professor Julia Davidson, with Dr. Jeffrey DeMarco and Mia Scally acting as researchers on the project. The project explored the practice of stakeholders in addressing online child sexual abuse in 5 countries the MENA region (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan).

The research was undertaken with the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, South Africa. This research was based upon a broad international literature review of a broad with data collected through stakeholder in-country interviews; it relies on an international child protection framework derived from the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the conventions of the Council of Europe (COE), and the recent framework proposed by the WeProtect Global Alliance to end the sexual exploitation of children online.

The findings indicate that each country among the target nations has its own challenges with the new requirements of child protection. Widespread cultural sensitivities, particularly relating to discussions around sex, make it difficult to assess or move public opinion on, or gauge actual experiences of, online sexual exploitation of children. The newness of online technologies results in the piecemeal application of laws written for offline crimes. And perhaps most notable for the future of child protection work, the lack of national coordination mechanisms means a general lack of clear data on the prevalence of online crime, the effectiveness of current protection efforts, and the true nature of ICT use by children. Furthermore, given that the internet knows no national borders, it is becoming increasingly important for international coordination mechanisms to be put in place to allow for investigation of transnational crimes, and for national laws to be made as consistent as possible in line with international legal benchmarks. For a copy of this report please email Prof Davidson j.davidson at mdx.ac.uk.




ESRC project grant: Stress online

esrcProfessor Antonia Bifulco and colleagues 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 Georgina Hosang (Goldsmiths University London); Helen Fisher and Anne Farmer (Kings College, London).

Stress is known to be a major contributor to illness and a significant obstacle to wellbeing. It is common in the general population, particularly adolescence and amongst those disadvantaged, and likely to increase at times of economic austerity. To understand stress, it is important to differentiate its objective properties in terms of adverse life events and difficulties and stress responses such as physical or emotional illness.

The project involves developing a new online Computerised Life Event Assessment Record (CLEAR) to mimic characteristics of an existing face-to-face intensive interview approach, but administered remotely at much lower cost. It will be delivered online using latest web-based data capture technology, and consist of detailed questions on recent life events and difficulties.

The study aims to test the reliability and validity of the CLEAR instrument in various ways. A subset of an existing national sample of Depression and Case Control adults (DeCC), and a newly selected sample of first year undergraduate students will be used to test the measures' robustness and association with problem outcomes in two life-stages. An International Scientific Advisory Board of academics and clinicians associated with the project will ensure use of the tool in ongoing longitudinal health research studies, in clinical and health practice and student monitoring. The aim is to develop a measure which will enhance the understanding of stress through improved research and clinical practice.


Evaluation of a Youth Violence Programme - Refunding

guysThe Lifespan Research group has completed an evaluation of a programme implemented by Guy’s & St Thomas Trust. The funding for the continuation of the service and the evaluation has been provided by Southwark and Lewisham PCT. The youth violence prevention programme was an innovative pilot programme aimed at tackling youth violence from within an Accident and Emergency (A&E) department at St. Thomas’ hospital in London. The programme was funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust with the intervention being delivered by youth workers from the Oasis charity.

The programme contributed to the reduction of harm resulting from youth violence. This was achieved through support work carried out by youth workers based in the A&E department, who met with young people attending the department as a result of violent incidents. Assessment evaluated their needs and vulnerability and mentoring work. as well as signposting to community services was undertaken. The project evaluation showed that by engaging vulnerable young people in positive activities and developing their personal and social abilities, this helped to reduce their risk of recurrent involvement in violence.

The programme received widespread attention and publicity following the riots in August 2011, which highlighted the need for strategies to reduce young people’s disassociation from community and engagement in criminal or harmful activities.

The results of the first phase published in: Ilan-Clarke, Y., Bunn, A., DeMarco, J., Bifulco, A., Criddle, J., & Holdsworth, G. (2013). Setting up a youth violence prevention project in a London hospital emergency department. Journal of public mental health, 12, 80-92. We are pleased to report that this paper, which can be viewed here (free access), has been awarded a 'Highly Commended paper for 2013' award by the editorial board of the Journal of Public Mental Health (Emerald Publishing).

Executive Summary of the 'Final Report: Evaluation of Guy’s & St. Thomas’ Youth Violence Intervention project' can be viewed here. The final report (full version) can be sought from the authors.


Crime & victimisation@CATS

Informing the Development of Specialist Support for Young Offenders who have been Victims of Crime

The aim of the research is to inform the commissioning of specialist support services for young offenders who are also victims of crime. The research will establish the potential size and needs of the cohort who could benefit from this provision within the London Resettlement Consortia, two groupings of six YOTs in North and South London, through which the services will be delivered. It will also identify gaps in existing provision for, and known best practice interventions with, this client group.


For more projects in Crime & victimisation area of research see our Completed Projects section.




Partnership with St Christopher’s Fellowship

scfSt Christopher’s Fellowship is one of the leading voluntary providers of services for children and young people, providing fostering, children’s homes and a range of housing and support services across England and the Isle of Man. All of their services are specially designed to meet the needs of the local authority and the young people who use them. St Christopher’s have been working in partnership with Professor Antonia Bifulco, Catherine Jacobs and the team of research psychologists at the Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS) for more than eight years. Working together CATs team and St. Christopher’s have developed an innovative model of child-care that supports the charity’s mission to build brighter futures for children and young people.

The model is based on attachment principles and uses a ‘Q Pack Assessment’ and Attachment Style Interview (ASI) developed from CATs research measures alongside other standardised assessment tools. Mainstreaming of these assessments allows St. Christopher’s to establish the best package of support to meet the needs of children and young people in their care and to monitor the impact of their interventions. These tools run in parallel with standards set and agreed as part of both the Isle of Man data set and the National Indicators set out by the UK government.

Q Packs The Q pack is a package of self-report tools covering symptoms, attachment insecurity and life events which is given out to each young person when they arrive at the residential home and repeated 3-6 monthly. The questionnaires are completed by young people, carers and teachers to provide a rounded view of the young person’s vulnerability, life events and disorder.

Attachment Style Interview Assessments The ASI provides an assessment of a young person’s relationship with their parents, siblings and also up to three close others. This can determine how the child or young person forms and maintains relationships, which in turn forms the basis for the level of security or insecurity of attachment style. The type of predominant insecure style is then determined - whether ‘anxious’ (enmeshed or fearful), ‘avoidant’ (angry-dismissive or withdrawn) or ‘dual’/’disorganized’, based on a mixed style. The ASI is asked and rated by residential workers who are fully trained in the model. The CATs team write a 6-7 risk and resilience report on the assessment to aid with care-planning for the young person.

Dissemination The findings of the joint work using the Q Pack Assessment and ASI are regularly disseminated on a national level at conferences, at an international level for academics and in practice journals for commissioners and practitioners. At the beginning of July 2013 Professor Toni Bifulco and Catherine Jacobs from CATS presented initial findings on the 'Q Pack' to a packed room at the National Children’s Commissioning and Contracting Training Conference Programme in Derby. Toni and Catherine introduced the assessment and showed promising initial findings alongside Ron Giddens and Claire Evans from St. Christopher's who discussed the wider benefits of using the 'Q pack' across their residential homes in the UK and the Isle of Man. ‘Q Pack’: Measuring outcomes, monitoring progress and improving social work practice for young people in residential care and fostering.

‘Q Pack’: Measuring outcomes, monitoring progress and improving social work practice for young people in residential care and fostering.

For further information on the Q pack, ASI and initial findings please read this document.

St Christopher's Fellowship website
Attachment Style Interview website

We are delighted to share that the story of our ongoing collaboration with St Christopher's Fellowship has recently featured in Community Care news! The report Innovative practice improving outcomes for children in care described 'how an innovative package of attachment assessment tools is supporting work with vulnerable children and young people. The tools help to identify needs, target support and track progress - and are having a proven impact on outcomes.' Read more.


Partnership with St Michael’s Fellowship

euCATS 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.



COMPLETED PROJECTS visit this page to read about our completed projects



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