Care experienced children deserve the chance to live healthy lives just as everyone else. In Scotland, about 15,000 children are in care every year and recent evidence across the UK shows that they have poorer health compared to other children, including higher mortality and avoidable hospitalisations. However, as this evidence is generally cross-sectional, we don’t know if or how poor health itself might contribute to the risk of entering care, which health conditions contribute most to that risk, or how subsequent care histories influence health.
This PhD project will explore if and how maternal health and health behaviours during pregnancy (e.g. smoking), and early childhood health and preventive health behaviours (e.g. vaccinations), are associated with entering care in Scotland. It will form a part of larger Children’s Health in Care in Scotland (CHiCS) project that aims to improve health outcomes for care experienced children and reduce health inequalities.
The project will link administrative data on childhood social care to birth, hospitalisation and vaccination records for children born between 1991-2004 and follow their health from birth up to age five. The proposal is novel as it captures the health and health behaviours of the child and mother prior to care. Longitudinal methods, such as multistate models and event history analysis, will be used to consider 1) whether maternal health and health behaviours, early childhood health and treatment adherence predict entering into care and 2) to estimate the effect of different care placements (such as the number, length, and type of placement) on early childhood health.
Given the ongoing review of the care system by the Scottish Government, this research is very timely. The results can motivate interventions for additional support to families with higher risks of family breakdown related to childhood ill health or poor treatment adherence and prepare social services for the likely health needs of children entering care.
The prospective student will be encouraged and supported to participate in knowledge exchange and engagement activities, submit conference abstracts, and publish their first research papers during the life of the PhD.
First Supervisor: Dr. Mirjam Allik, University of Glasgow