PhD Studentship - Developmental Psychology / Behaviour Change - Life and Natural Sciences - University of Derby

PhD studentship (Graduate Teaching Assistant) in Developmental Psychology / Behaviour Change

Funded PhD Studentship (Graduate Teaching Assistant) in Developmental Psychology / Behaviour Change: Development and evaluation of parental/carer interventions for children and young people diagnosed with autism

Centre for Psychological Research, University of Derby, UK – Developmental Psychology / Behaviour Change


Research area

Training interventions for parents may focus on the child’s behaviour, parent self-efficacy, parenting skills and family relationships. This type of intervention can be offered, for example, in primary care, schools, nurseries or community centres, and can be given by individuals with a wide variety of training and is very cost effective. Psychosocial interventions may aim to increase the parents', carers', teachers' or peers' understanding of, and sensitivity and responsiveness to, the child’s or young person's patterns of communication and interaction; whereas behavioural strategies may seek to reduce challenging behaviour and increase desirable behaviour. In children and young adults with autism, effective parental/carer interventions and strategies are a key way of improving long-term outcomes and may help improve with the transition to adult services.


Some outcomes that this research may focus on are challenging behaviour and aggression, obsessions, anxiety, dealing with change/transitions, sensory difficulties, meltdowns, and other difficulties associated with communication and social interaction. The PhD studentship project will add a behavioural and psychological perspective to the existing research on autism and models of behavioural change. The details of the PhD study protocol will reflect the contribution of the successful candidate, but is expected to be a mixed methods project including:

  • Gathering data about views and needs of stakeholders/parents;
  • Systematic review of existing literature on parental interventions for autism;
  • Critical review and evaluation of parental scales (e.g. self-efficacy);
  • Development, implementation and testing of a parenting intervention
  • Quantitative analysis of the efficacy of parental strategies/interventions;
  • Quantitative analysis of parent-reported self-efficacy using standardised scales;
  • Qualitative analysis of parental interview and focus group data.

The PhD supervisory team is expected to comprise Drs Simon Bignell, Sigrid Lipka and Chris Barnes. The successful applicant will become a student member of the Centre for Psychological Research ( and will also be a Graduate Teaching Assistant, contributing to teaching in the relevant Department for up to 6 hours per week.

Principal Accountabilities

Full-time Graduate Teaching Assistants are expected to complete their study and submit for a PhD award within 3 years (traditional route; 4 years for Integrated PhD route), and to contribute to teaching in the relevant discipline area for up to 6 hours per week. They must:

  • Undertake research and scholarly activity associated with the PhD study programme;
  • Produce excellent research outputs and high-quality publications;
  • Attend appropriate academic conferences and seminars appropriate to the PhD study;
  • Provide a high level of integrity and commitment towards the project;
  • Teach or support teaching on programmes and modules within agreed curricula, particularly within the areas of research applicable to the PhD study.



  1. Good (first or upper second class honours) degree in Psychology or a closely related subject
  2. Quantitative and qualitative research skills.
  3. Familiarity with Developmental Psychology, behaviour change or related research.
  4. Knowledge and awareness of research issues in autism.
  5. Ability to work in a multidisciplinary team
  6. Knowledge and ability to contribute to teaching in higher education


  1. MSc in Developmental Psychology or a closely related subject.
  2. Knowledge or experience of behaviour change interventions.
  3. Experience with mixed methods research.
  4. Experience with people diagnosed with autism.
  5. Knowledge or experience of multidisciplinary research.
  6. Some teaching, demonstration or presentation experience.

Funding details

The start date is end of February 2017 or soon after. The studentship covers tuition fees to the Home/EU level plus a stipend for living expense of £14,296 per annum. If your application is successful and you are assessed as Overseas for fees purposes, you will need to pay the difference between the Home/EU fees and the Overseas fees. Funding will be awarded for up to three years (traditional route; or four years integrated route) subject to satisfactory progress.


For details of how to apply, please see:

Use the Research Proposal part of the application form to show how you would approach the design, implementation and evaluation of an early intervention for autism primarily aimed at parents and carers in school or home.

Complete applications should be forwarded to Stuart Wain at, quoting reference number DevPsy16.  

Informal enquiries may be addressed to Dr Simon Bignell ( Please note that applications sent directly to this email address will not be accepted.

Deadline for applications: Monday 16 January 2017

Interviews are expected to be held by Friday 3rd February 2017. If you have not heard from us by this date, please assume that on this occasion your application has not been successful.


This research studentship is funded internally within the Psychology subject group by the University of Derby, College of Life and Natural Sciences.