Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

PhD Supervision Interests

Sexual Health in children and young people
Sexual behaviours in children and young people
Evaluation of policy and programmes
Social, emotional and behavioural difficulties


Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

Sophie is an Associate Professor in the Health Services Management Centre. She specialises in sexual behaviours and assessment in children and young people, sexual health, sibling sexual abuse, misogyny, relationships and sex education and the importance of youth voice. Much of her work is cross-sector, cross-disciplinary and centred around participatory and co-design approaches with young people. Sophie also has an interest in policy implementation, transfer and success frameworks and evaluation strategies. Previously she worked extensively in the third sector in the field of education and sexual health with many diverse groups such as teenage parents and young people with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Previously, she was a Senior Lecturer in Education and Inclusion at the University of Worcester. Alongside this she was a regional tutor for the MEd in Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties with the School of Education at the University of Birmingham. Sophie has worked extensively in the third sector. She has taught sex and relationships in schools across the West Midlands  and was the National Impact Coordinator for a leading sexual health charity for children and young people. In her work with a local council she researched, implemented and evaluated an Independent Travel Training programme for children and young people with SEN, this programme is still currently in operation and is deemed as best practice in this sector. Within her career Sophie has worked with many diverse groups across education and health settings. Sophie developed an accredited programme for teenage parents across the West Midlands which ran for six years in conjunction with working as an antenatal teacher specialising in teaching diverse and low-socio economic groups.


  • PhD (Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham)
  • M.Ed in Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (School of Education, University of Birmingham)
  • Post Graduate Certificate in Advanced Research Methods and Skills (University of Birmingham)
  • Post Graduate Certificate Research Methods (University of Birmingham)
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (University of Worcester)

  • BA Honours Degree in Education Studies (University of Worcester)
  • Higher National Diploma in Antenatal Education (University of Bedford)
  • Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (University of Worcester)

Research interests

Sophie’s research interests include sexual behaviours in children and young people, first point assessment for sexual behaviours in children and young people, sexual health, teenage parents, LGBTQ+ and gender issues. Sophie has an interest in both policy, evaluation and the impact of context.

Research projects:

ESRC NI: Research grant for project to assess sexual behaviours in children and young people aged 13-18 in the UK

Sophie currently holds an ESRC New Investigators Grant as principal investigator (£300k, June 2022- June 2024). This research intends to explore what constitutes normal, problematic, abusive and violent sexual behaviours in children and young people in the UK aged 13-18. This data will then be used to develop an assessment tool for professionals working with children and young people. This is in collaboration with Brook Charity and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. This project has also featured in TES magazine Why sex education in schools is flawed | Tes

Project website: Understanding Sexual behaviours in Children and Young People in the UK - University of Birmingham

ESRC IAA: Assessing Sibling Sexual Abuse -  Pilot Project 

Sophie is currently the holder of ESRC Impact Acceleration Account funding. Sophie is leading this project that will build on the research from the previous work she has carried out on sibling sexual abuse. This project will explore piloting an assessment/screening tool with a range of professional organisations who work directly with CYP and sibling sexual abuse. This will follow on from the work previously carried out by Sophie and Abby Gilsenan and will also bring together work by  Prof. Kieran McCartan at UWE - whose research explored adult survivors of SSA - and the work carried out by Allardyce and Yates (2021) for the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse.

Project website: Sibling Sexual Behavior: Mapping Tool and Project Website

ESRC IAA: 'We're in this together' Sexual harassment in schools: A boys voice

Sophie has received seed funding from the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account along with Dr. Daniel Vyleta from the Department of Film and Creative Writing to explore the importance of the voice of boys when considering sexual harassment in schools. The aim of this is to help identify ways in which the voices of young men articulating their views of sex and sexuality, masculinity, gender and rape culture can be captured and represented in an effective manner that at the same time protects their safety/anonymity. This project intends to plan the next steps for producing a resource that can be used within an educational setting to change the dialogue across genders.

AHRC IAA: 'We're in this Together' - perceptions of masculinity and boyhood

Sophie has received funding from the AHRC IAA account to further the work on conceptualising boyhood in contemporary culture. This project will capture the oral histories of young men and boys from various demographics to create a picture of how boyhood and masculinity is experienced in the UK context. This work will be carried out alongside co-investigators Abby Gilsenan (School of Social Policy) Dr Dan Vyleta and Graham Donovan (both from Department of Film and Creative Writing)

ESRC IAA: Youth Graffiti Project 

Sophie received seed funding from the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account to work with young people to design a piece of graffiti that represents listening to young people and why this is vitally important when considering issues that surround them. This highlighted why  participatory research with young people is key to co-designing positive interventions and support. This work was carried out with graffiti artist Void One.

Project web page:  Empowering youth voice through graffiti art

Euniwell: Managing Sensitive Topics in Teaching and Research

Sophie is Co-lead on this EUniwell funded project with Dr. Katharina Karcher working with Joanne McCuaig and Dr Manuela Nilsson. The project seeks to draw on the expertise and experience of researchers in a range of disciplines, and seeks to change how ‘sensitive’ topics are dealt with in academia. Although it is widely known that sensitive topics can cause distress, academics receive little training on how to deal with potentially distressing material. This project seeks to change this by identifying and promoting measures to improve the wellbeing of researchers and students working on sensitive issues and to create tools and resources that can be used by academics to support work with these topics. This project is in collaboration with The University of Florence, Linnaeus University and  The University of Leiden. This project has produced a toolkit for academics and researchers working on subject areas they deem sensitive or distressing.

Project webpage: Managing sensitive topics in teaching and research confidently 

ESRC IAA: Relationships and Sex Education Resource Co-design with Young People

Sophie worked with 14 young people (in year 10) from the University of Birmingham School to design a resource for those teaching relationships and sex education (RSE). This collaboration produced a top tips guide for school leadership teams and teachers titled ‘A students’ guide to what you don’t know’. This was then designed by local graffiti artist Void One under the guidance of the young people. This resource provides insight as to what young people need from their RSE sessions, from young people themselves. The young people involved in the project then presented their work and the project to academics at a showcase event at the University of Birmingham.

You can download the resource here:

Home Office: RCEW National Project on Sibling Sexual Abuse | SARSAS

Sophie was one of the leads for the National Rape Crisis England and Wales Sibling Sexual Abuse Project. In partnership with Purple Leaf and Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support, the University of the West of England and West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre. Sophie oversaw the research and work on the provision of suitable support services and pathways for children from the age of five who have carried out or survived sibling sexual abuse.  Funded by the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.




Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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