School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Student Blog - Rebecca Oldroyd

Rebecca Oldroyd recently presented at the National Council on Family Relations in Fortworth, Texas, after winning their competitive international travel section award. The 2nd year Psychology PhD student discussed some of her research findings on how transitions in family structure effect the health of children, her future research plans and the positive impact of her supportive supervisor.

19 December 2019

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Can you explain what the conference was about?

The conference was the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR), the largest conference in my field of family studies. NCFR combines professionals from many disciplines, ranging from Psychology, Sociology and Demographers.

In my research, I’m specifically looking at changes in family structure such as marriage, divorce, cohabitation and the effects that has on children. The conference was a lot broader and explored more variables such as same sex relationships and child parent relationships.

Briefly tell me about the award you won and how you found out about it?

The award that I won was the international section travel award which my supervisor brought to me as a great opportunity. I had to submit a short application to explain explaining why I should receive the award. The award was a $250 prize which would contribute to students and new professionals to travel to the conference. 

What were the key points from your presentation?

I did 2 presentations, a paper and a poster;

My poster presentation established how common transitions in family structure are to find out the proportion of children that were experiencing at least one change in family structure by age 12. My research revealed huge variations between the four countries analysed – Peru had the highest percentage of transitions at 22% with India having the lowest prevalence at 5.6%.

The paper looked at the effect of family structure transitions for children living in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam specifically looking at how changes in household composition influence children’s physical health. For example, going from a 2-parent household to one parent or transitioning from one parent to having a step-family. I found that children in Peru had worse physical health when they experienced a transition vs the children who didn’t experience a transition.

Rebecca joined Queen Mary University of London's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences as an Undergraduate. After completing a Psychology BSc she moved straight onto her PhD studies. She hightlights the importance of a supportive supervisor and reveals her future plans for research.

How did the support from your supervisor Dr Kristin Hadfield, shape the development of your studies?

My supervisor, Dr Kristin Hadfield, was very supportive! Dr Hadfield has really been consistent in making sure I am involved in as many things as possible, such as speaking opportunities which have been great for networking. In my first year as a PhD student, I spoke at a career symposium at Queen Mary University. I delivered a talk to current undergraduate students on my experience of going from an undergraduate student to a PhD student, highlighting the skills and opportunities needed achieve this. I also spoke at the 10year anniversary for the SBCS Psychology department.

My PhD is primarily office based; I analyse a lot of secondary datasets - I do enjoy the analysis of large scale longitudinal studies, looking at data from thousands of participants but at the same time it's great that my supervisor has brought opportunities away from the desk research, making me a more well-rounded PhD student. As I mentioned, she brought the conference to my attention, notified me of the award and helped me through the entire application process. She is now helping me to apply for a conference in London this summer, I am also hoping to return to the NCFR in 2020 and we have a symposium in the pipeline for 2021.

What are your next steps for research?

To look at risk and protective factors that expose children and shield children to the negative consequences that are associated with changes in family structure. I would like to do more advance statistical modelling such as mediations, moderation and mediated moderated mediation to tease apart the specific circumstances under which transitions lead to negative outcomes for children.

QMUL is part of the London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Programme (LISS DTP) which provides access to a range of free courses and workshops. I attended a free, two-day workshop called "Translating your research: How to do research that makes a difference". Whilst there, I connected with an interesting and inspiring Lecturer from the Global Health course at QMUL.  She invited me to help out on a new module called Public Health in Practice. I helped design the module, I ran a lecture on Quantitative Data Analysis, and it has also really inspired my own work. Global Health uses lots of qualitative methodologies that - up until helping out on the module - I didn't really know much about.

Learning about how to conduct interviews and ways to go out into the field to include your participants in your research, has piqued my interest in combining quantitative and qualitative methods; I hope that either during or after my PhD I will be able to use these news skills to improve and enrich my research on the health of families and children from low-and middle-income countries.

Learn more about PhD student support and training