Keynote Speakers

Professor Candice Odgers

‘Coming of age in an increasing uncertain, unequal, and digital world.’ 

Candice Odgers is a Professor of Psychological Science and Informatics at the University of California Irvine and Co-Director of the Child & Brain Development Program at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Her team has been capturing the daily lives and mental health of adolescents using mobile phones and sensors over the past decade.

More recently, she has been working to leverage digital technologies to better support the needs of children and adolescents as they come of age in an increasingly unequal and digital world.  She is the author of over 100 scientific publications and her research has been disseminated widely via outlets such as the EconomistNew York Times, Scientific American, and the Washington Post

More information about her work can be found on adaptlab.org and @candice_odgers 

Professor Rebecca Pearson

‘Little mind, like me’: Understanding the intergenerational transmission of mental health risk.’

Rebecca Pearson is Professor of Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her first degree was in Applied Psychology from Cardiff University with a placement year in the Institute of Child Health/ UCL. Professor Pearson’s PhD was hosted in Bristol Medical School, where upon graduation in 2011, she remained as a Research Associate, Fellow and then Senior Lecturer in 2017.  In 2021 she took up a Professorship in Psychology in Manchester Metropolitan in 2021.

She has developed an interdisciplinary program of research, investigating the mechanisms underlying the intergenerational transmission of mental health disorders. This is funded by the ERC, MRC and WT grant, and includes work across the world in Brazil, South Africa and the US. She has published over 90 papers which have contributed to real world impact and new understanding, cited in policy documents. Professor Pearson’s research combines Psychology and Epidemiology and has a particular focus currently on novel observational and computational methods to understand parenting relationships.​

It is well known that children of parents who suffer from mental health problems are more likely to go on to have mental health problems themselves. But why and how this risk confers is still poorly understood.Because parents and children are connected by genetics, biological and home environments as well as bidirectional behavioural interactions, these are surprisingly hard questions to answer. In addition, answering these questions wrongly can do more harm than good (for example, if parents are blamed and not supported).

With a growing mental health crisis and generation lockdown having spent far more time with parents than generations before, answers to these questions have never been more crucial.

Using a mixture of psychology and epidemiology, in my research career, I have contributed to new understanding of how risk from parent to child manifests and how to prevent it. I will present findings from longitudinal studies providing new insights into the associations between parental and offspring mental health, including the role of direct genetic and genetic nurture pathways, the moderating role of parental education/income and mediating role of various parenting dimensions. I will then describe behavioural work recording parent-child interaction using wearable cameras and sensors at home and extracting behavioural signatures of parenting. Finally, I will discuss current work exploring the causal ingredients of parenting interventions and new ideas for intervention tools to support parenting as a solution not as a cause.

Professor Anne AE. Thorup

Perspectives of investigating developmental psychopathology and testing prevention and early intervention programs for children born to parents with severe mental illnessA Danish cohort study.’

Professor Thorup is a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry, with a focus on prevention and early intervention. 

Since 2012, Professor Thorup has led the ‘The Danish High Risk and Resilience Study- VIA 7’ – a cohort study of 522 seven-year-old children born of parents diagnosed with either schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or neither of these two mental disorders.  Having a first-degree relative with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is the strongest known risk factor for developing these disorders.  The Via 7 cohort is the largest familial high-risk study in the world and is being followed up over time, at age 11(VIA 11-study) and age 15 (VIA 15 study, ongoing). Participation rates are high (89% participation at first follow-up) despite a long test battery, most likely due to a very flexible and friendly approach to all families.

Results have consistently shown that children born with a predisposition for severe mental illness show early signs of vulnerability and deviant development in many aspects. There is a potential for improving preventive strategies and support for these families, both to increase recovery in the parents and reduce stigma, to support family functioning and to prevent illness development in the children’s future.  Further, a randomized intervention study, The Via Family Study, providing a specialized and cross-sectional intervention for children and parents in high-risk families, has been conducted along with register studies in the same field.

Professor Thorup’s special areas of interests are developmental psychopathology and early environmental risk factors like attachment, childhood trauma, family environment, social relations and social cognition, and early intervention and prevention.