Suna Eryigit-Madzwamuse

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Personal profile

Research interests

I m a social scientist with a background in human development, family studies, educational science and psychological counselling.

My research aims to promote healthy cognitive and psychosocial development, improve mental health and wellbeing and increase quality of life for all children and young people but especially for those who are disadvantaged because of social or biological challenges.

My research is interdisciplinary, sitting at the interface between developmental psychology, education, and public health. It covers the period from birth to young adulthood with a focus on individual, social, cultural and wider systemic risk and protective mechanisms. I take an ecological systems perspective in my research which highlights implications for research, practice and policy directly for children and young people, and also for systems around them. These include families (e.g., family functioning); schools (e.g., whole school approaches); services (e.g., workforce development), and communities (e.g., social climate and culture change).

I am interested in all areas of research with children and young people that seek to investigate why some individuals do better in life (as assessed by developmental, mental health, wellbeing or quality life outcomes) whilst some others continue to have difficulties under the conditions of social and/or biological disadvantage. Under this umbrella, the two pillars of my current research are how these differences can be predicted by earlier experiences through longitudinal cohort studies and how difficulties can be prevented by early intervention through programme development and evaluation.

Scholarly biography

I am a Reader at the School of Health Sciences and the Deputy Director of the Centre of Resilience for Social Justice (CRSJ). I also lead CRSJ’s research area on children, families and schools.

My passion for supporting children and young people at the interface between research and practice has developed through my interdisciplinary background and my experiences in various institutions and cultures I have been part of. I studied Educational Sciences, and Psychological Counselling at Bogazici University in Turkey, Family & Couple Psychotherapy at the Institute of Relationship Therapies in Turkey, and Human Development & Family Studies at Auburn University in the USA. Before joining to Brighton, I worked as a research worker in a parenting practitioners programme at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. I also worked s a Research Assistant at the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues at Birkbeck UoI, and as a Research Fellow of longitudinal studies in the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick.

My experiences in all these different institutions and disciplines have given me the opportunity to develop a breadth of expertise around supporting development and wellbeing of children and young people (pregnancy to 25 years of age). Each project I worked on provoked my curiosity and critical thinking for the next one, which generally resulted in taking a different angle related to children and young people’s developmental stage, outcome focus or methodology. In my past and recently completed research, I studied social, cognitive and emotional wellbeing, health related quality of life, identity formation and future orientation in education, considering the impact of risk and protective factors in the family, school, and cultural and economic characteristics of the wider community.

My doctoral dissertation work was an international study with college students, which received a doctoral dissertation funding award from Women’s Philanthropy Board and distinguished dissertation award from Auburn University. In my PhD research, I examined the associations between wider contextual (i.e., perception of economy and social/cultural norms), attitudinal (information vs norm orientation), and behavioural (identity exploration and commitment) aspects of identity formation within ethnically and nationally diverse samples. Prior to moving to UK, I also conducted research on the impact of perceived parental physical and psychological maltreatment on psychological adjustment of secondary school students in Turkey, and on a programme evaluation of a romantic relationship-focused psycho-educational intervention on identity formation and dating experiences of high school students in Alabama, USA. During these projects, my interest in working on large longitudinal datasets emerged in order to understand the underlying mechanisms of differences I was observing in young individuals’ experiences in emotional, social and educational domains. First, I was interested in the pre-school/child-care experiences of children on their development and emotional wellbeing and worked on the Families, Children and Childcare dataset. Although this dataset was exceptional in terms of socio-economic diversity representation, data were only collected from healthy and term-born children and their families. Given that on average 10% of population are born premature and/or small for gestational age and a major risk factor, I explored the developmental, health and educational trajectories of those born premature and/or small using two cohort datasets, Growth in At-risk Infants Study and Bavarian Longitudinal Study.

Across all these projects I worked on my main learning, beyond specific content, was the importance of balance between risk and protective mechanisms in children and young people’s lives for understanding later impact, the critical role of systems around them as more influential than their individual characteristics, the need for developing interventions that are complex and addressing both individual and systems issues reflecting the complexity of their lives, and the key role of co-production in order to design and conduct research that will have a sustainable impact in research, practice, policy platforms and also directly in communities.   

I had an opportunity to apply learning from the above experience in an ESRC funded project, the Imagine Programme, specifically through the Social Context work-package. My work on this involved exploring social-justice and social-ecology oriented resilience models and complex systems theories in relation to children and young people’s development and wellbeing. Part of Imagine, one project I led was an investigation of  a resilience implementation model with a whole school approach (the Academic Resilience Approach) on school climate, school staff and student outcomes in fifteen schools in North of England (both primary and secondary schools). The findings of this study informed my two current research projects testing the model in a deprived local area in England as part of a larger project. I have also applied it to projects in Turkey and East Asia to explore the  potential adaptation of the Academic Resilience Approach in diverse contexts across cultural and systemic (e.g., educational regulations and policies) variations.

I am research lead for the research and local evaluation of the National Lottery Community funded HeadStart programme in Blackpool, Blackpool’s Resilience Revolution. This programme aims to investigate the mental health and resilience of children and young people (age10-16 years) living in Blackpool through four strands of action: youth-activism and civic identity; targeted support during transition from primary to secondary; workforce development and community development. Its research projects reflect the four strands and explore both process of change and impact of the programme on young people and systems around them using a mixed-methods approach through the lens of complexity theory.  My current research in another interdisciplinary project across  three different areas in the UK investigates the role of connection to past, present, and future of community as a mechanism for resilience building through identity formation.

My research is mainly quantitative with a particular expertise in cohort studies, programme evaluation and in managing and analysing longitudinal and large datasets. I also have experience in questionnaire development, q-methodology, and cross-cultural study designs. I have experience of various statistical methods including variable-centred approaches and person-centred approaches. I use mixed-methods approach in programme evaluation studies incorporating various types of data in order to provide the most meaningful picture of programme implementation. 

Supervisory Interests

PGR supervision is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work. With each student I gain new knowledge and perspectives about subject matter, my student and myself. To work with students who will be influencing the wellbeing of individuals and societies with their unique contributions to the field is one of the most exciting parts of being an academician. Seeing my students become excellent researchers, working enthusiastically to make a difference in their society and become successful, resourceful and creative is my main motivation with PGR supervision.

I am interested in supervising PhD students in most areas of child/young people’s development, health, and education with quantitative or mixed-methods designs. However particular areas of interest for supervision include research on

-        identity formation

-        family functioning

-        health and education

-        whole school approaches

-        cross-cultural studies

-        cohort or longitudinal studies


Knowledge exchange

Knowledge exchange is an essential and fully integrated part of my work. All of my current projects are collaborative research studies in partnership with local government and community organisations. I am a volunteer member of the Boingboing social enterprise which is an impact vehicle for the Centre of Resilience for Social Justice. I am Enterprise lead at the School of Health Sciences.  I have successfully received two knowledge exchange awards from the AHRC in 2015 and 2016. I have extensive experience in communicating my research with audience across sectors of the community. I routinely present and discuss my work, its conceptual underpinning and practical implications with young people, practitioners, and policy-makers. I am also very experienced supporting young people and practitioners with building research capacity. For instance, I have organized three successful three-day research and writing retreats with academic and community researchers working together.

Approach to teaching

Most of my teaching is at post-graduate level and on research methods.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Auburn University

Award Date: 14 May 2010

Master, Bogazici University

Award Date: 17 Jun 2005

Bachelor, Bogazici University

Award Date: 14 Jun 2002


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