Determining the impact of underage alcohol/substance use on child health and well-being


English statistics report that in 2016, almost half of girls (46%) and boys (43%) aged 11-15 years had consumed alcohol. This increased to 65% by 16-17 years. Almost a quarter of 15-year olds (23%) reported being drunk within the past 4 weeks, and by 14 years, approximately one third had tried an illicit substance (e.g. cannabis). Underage alcohol/substance use (UASU) can have significant long-term consequences on brain development, and increases risk of accident/injury, violent/criminal behaviour, pregnancy/STIs, and lowers educational/employment attainment. These effects can be more pronounced in lower socio-economic populations, important for Liverpool where 33% of those <16yrs live in poverty. Despite the common involvement of alcohol and substance use in emergency department visits which involve 'adverse' factors (e.g. violence, self-harm), few emergency departments offer any alcohol/substance-related interventions to underage patients.

This research will provide a comprehensive understanding of underage alcohol/substance use (UASU). The successful candidate will work with children, families, paediatric clinicians, and organisations (e.g. schools) to determine attitudes around UASU, and identify factors that increase UASU and perceived barriers to reducing this behaviour. This data will be collected via a range of quantitative (e.g. surveys) and qualitative (e.g. interviews) research methods, and consider the impact of health inequalities.

The candidate will work with existing healthcare records to better understand the nature of UASU admissions. The candidate will conduct relevant systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses to identify the current evidence around effective interventions to reduce UASU. This work will support collaboration with adolescents and healthcare professionals to develop guidance on tools which can be used in clinical/non-clinical settings to identify and/or reduce UASU.

This is an exciting and rare opportunity for a PhD candidate to work across academic and clinical settings. The candidate will work with a wide range of populations and socioeconomic areas across the Liverpool region, covering sensitive topics. A wide range of skills will be developed, including quantitative and qualitative research methods and statistical analysis (including meta-analysis and secondary data analysis). The candidate must show awareness of appropriate ethical guidelines, have excellent time management skills, the ability to work on their own initiative, and enjoy working with a range of people (an enhanced DBS check will be required before the research can begin).

The PhD supervisory team compromise: Dr Abi Rose (Experimental psychologist with expertise in alcohol behaviour and addiction, and specific interest in maternal and adolescent alcohol use and well-being), Dr Shrouk Messahel (Paediatric Emergency Medicine Consultant, Alder Hey), Dr Kate Fleming (Epidemiologist with expertise in the analysis of large health databases and research interests spanning pregnancy, maternity and child health, and alcohol-related harm), Dr Suzi Gage (Psychologist and epidemiologist, with specific interest in understanding the impact of recreational drug use on mental health).

The start date is negotiable but must start before 1st September 2020.

Application is by CV and Cover Letter. The Cover Letter must detail your interest in the studentship, related experience and training and suitability for the position.   Applications to be sent to Dr Abi Rose: