Monday, 31 October 2016

A Nuffield Foundation placement student joined HBSC England

During summer 2016 the Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC) at the University of Hertfordshire hosted two Nuffield Foundation research placements. Nuffield Foundation placements are awarded to gifted and talented students who have just finished their AS levels and are interested in pursuing careers in STEMM subjects. The placement allows the student to undertake an independent research project. La-Dantai joined the HBSC England team to conduct her research project on self-harm in adolescence, while Umme's research evaluated online dietary information available for people with type 2 diabetes.

We are pleased to report that both La-Dantai and Umme were awarded Gold Crest 1 awards for their independent research projects. Many congratulations to both of them! 

La-Dantai has written the following blog post reflecting on her time in the department...

I would first like to start by showing a great appreciation towards everybody in the CRIPACC department of the University of Hertfordshire. Not only were they really welcoming, but they also offered a hand whenever I required a little bit of help to make this project even better

My project included research into associated factors with self-harming in adolescence, this involved identifying both protective and risk factors, as well as using the HBSC survey that is produced nationally to gather data.

Immediately I was introduced to new concepts, such as a literature search - it may sound easy, but there are a few minute details that you must really remember to find the best sources of literature - and literature reviews. Thankfully my mentor was extremely helpful when she saw me struggling and, after helping, set up for me to have a meeting with someone who could show me in the in’s and out’s of literature reviews.

After that, reviewing and structuring my report was fairly easy. There was a hiccup when I was required to process the data, as the program that University of Hertfordshire uses in this department to analyse data, I hadn’t used before. Again, my mentor was very helpful and took me through step by step on how to get the most accurate and reliable results from the data.

The placement, which took place over 4 weeks in the summer, was a very informative and fun experience. Not only was there a picnic within the department - I was super happy about that - but it exposed me to what research is, how aims and hypothesises are produced, the work required to find literature to support or disprove a statement. It gave me a look into what being a researcher is and has contributed towards my decision on the degree I wish to do.

These skills I have gained - the ability to literature search, to analyse data with great accuracy, being able to produce a standardised method to carry out research to form reliable results and writing a report (the most important one!) - will be ever so important in University.

I am very grateful for the testing of my time management skills by having to be on time every morning and complete tasks by a specific time and date - for example, meetings with my mentor would be planned and a specific task such as my introduction would have to be completed by then.

Alongside this, my organisational skills and communication skills were tested, it was important to be clear when asking a question and important to write fluently, as well as have all my information designated to a specific folder in order to not get confused!

The placement has contributed to my development by testing my abilities and proving that I am capable of anything new if I put my mind to it. I am very grateful for that.


CRIPACC has hosted a number of Nuffield Foundation placements since 2013. Chelsea, Marium and Susanna have each written a blog post about their placements during summer 2015.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Cyberbullying: Summary of our publication in Youth & Society

Cyberbullying can be defined as bullying which take place in the virtual world (for example via messaging services, social networking sites, emails and gaming websites), and can include a number of behaviours such as sending abusive messages, posting embarrassing or altered photographs, purposely excluding people from online groups and setting up fake online profiles1.

Cyberbullying has been shown to have a detrimental effect on young people’s health and wellbeing and their social outcomes. Young people who are cyberbullied are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem2,3; research has also identified a link between being cyberbullied and poorer outcomes at school3.

Questions to measure cyberbullying were first added to the HBSC survey in 2014. You can read our previous blog post which describes why cyberbullying warranted attention in the HBSC study by clicking here. Cyberbullying was measured by two questions which addressed different forms of cyberbullying (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Questions measuring cyberbullying in the 2014 HBSC survey

The prevalence of cyberbullying, and bullying more broadly, has been reported extensively in the 2014 HBSC England national report4.  Of the young people who participated in the 2014 HBSC survey in England, 18% reporting experiencing some form of cyberbullying in the past two months. Reporting cyberbullying was more common among girls than boys, and the likelihood of being victimised in this was appeared to increase with age for all young people (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Prevalence of cyberbullying (graph original published in Brooks et al. (2015))

Traditionally the health and wellbeing of young people has been approached from a deficit perspective; this approach asks why young people are ill and has often focussed on risk factors such as substance use5.  However more recently asset based approaches have begun to emerge; asking what makes young people healthy and identifying protective factors which sustain health6. The HBSC England team are keen to take a positive rather the deficit approach to young people’s health.

The data collected from the HBSC study is ideal for approaching health in this manner as it situates young people’s health in its social context, with the HBSC England survey asking young people about their family, friends, peers, school and neighbourhood. Work from the research team has explored protective factors of young people’s health in relation to risk behaviours7, body image8 and self-harm9. (Check out our recent blog post summarising our self-harm publication by clicking here).

Our latest paper on cyberbullying uses a similar positive perspective, and sought to identify elements from the different domains in young people’s lives, including family, school and neighbourhood, which may protect against cyberbullying.

The analysis highlighted eight key factors which were associated with cyberbullying. Factors were identified at the individual level (gender, age, autonomy), family (family affluence, family communication), school (sense of belonging to school, teacher support) and neighbourhood environments (perception of local area). Unlike the more traditional forms of bullying which are often restricted to the school grounds cyberbullying can continue beyond the school environment and school hours. Despite this, our recent paper emphasises the important role the school may play in preventing cyberbullying; young people who reported positive perceptions of the school environment and supportive teacher-student relationships were significantly less likely to say they had been cyberbullied.

The full paper can be found by clicking here. If you are interested in the topic of bullying you may also like to read our international collaborative paper presenting cross-cultural trends in bullying victimization between 2002-2010 by clicking here.  


1.    Bullying UK. What is cyberbullying? Retrieved October, 12, 2016 from 

2.    Wang, J., Nansel, T. R., & Iannotti, R. J. (2011). Cyber and traditional bullying: Differential association with depression. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48(4), 415–417.

3.    Tsitsika, A., Janikian, M., W√≥jcik, S., Makaruk, K., Tzavela, E., Tzavara, C., … Richardson, C. (2015). Cyberbullying victimization prevalence and associations with internalizing and externalizing problems among adolescents in six European countries. Computers in Human Behavior, 51, 1–7.

4.   Brooks, F., Magnusson, J., Klemera, E., Chester, K., Spencer, N., & Smeeton, N. (2015). HBSC England national report: Findings from the 2014 HBSC study for England. Hatfield, UK: University of Hertfordshire. Retrieved October, 12, 2016 from

5.   Department of Health. 92010). Health lives, healthy people: our strategy for public health in England. Retrieved October, 12, 216 from

6.   Whiting, L., Kendall, S., & Wills, W. (2012). An asset-based approach: An alternative health promotion strategy? Community Practitioner, 85(1), 25–28.

7.   Brooks, F., Magnusson, J., Spencer, N., & Morgan, A. (2012). Adolescent multiple risk behaviour: An asset approach to the role of family, school and community. Journal of Public Health, 34(S1), 48–56

8.   Fenton, C., Brooks, F., Spencer, N. H., & Morgan, A. (2010). Sustaining a positive body image in adolescence: An assets-based analysis. Health and Social Care in the Community, 18(2), 189–198.

9.   Klemera, E., Brooks, F. M., Chester, K. L., Magnusson, J., & Spencer, N. (2016). Self-harm in adolescence: protective health assets in the family, school and community. International Journal of Public Health. doi:10.1007/s00038-016-0900-2

Monday, 10 October 2016

Adolescent self-harm: Summary of our publication in the International Journal of Public Health

Self-harm can be defined as the act of deliberately causing harm to oneself, and may include a number of behaviours such as cutting, burning, hitting, scratching and self-poisoning1. The behaviour is thought to be most common among teenagers2, and self-harming during adolescence has been associated with an increased risk of mental health problems in adulthood3.

Questions on self-harm were added to the HBSC England survey for the first time in 2014, motivated by reports poor emotional wellbeing and self-harm were on the increase among young people4,5. Furthermore, a review conducted in 2013 by the Association for Young People’s Health (AYPH) identified a lack of research on young people who self-harm but do not attend hospital with their injuries6. We have blogged previously about the motivation to include the topic of self-harm in the HBSC England survey, for further details have a read of our blog post here

Analysis of the 2014 HBSC England data identified around a fifth (21.5%) of 15 year old respondents reported having self-harmed (data published previously in articles by the Guardian and BBC). Fifteen year old girls were nearly three times as likely as boys to report having self-harmed; 31.9% of girls compared with 11.4% of boys. Figure 1 illustrates how often young people were self-harming; the majority of those who self-harmed reported self-harming around once a month.

Note: Figure 1 originates from Brooks et al. (2015)

Given that this is the first time self-harm has been added to the HBSC England survey our data alone cannot tell us whether self-harm has changed over time. However, comparing our data to a similar school based study conducted in England during 2000/017 suggests self-harm rates may have nearly tripled over the past decade. Questions on self-harm will be included in the HBSC England survey during the next round, allowing us to observe any changes between 2014 and 2018. 

While it was important to gain new insight into prevalence rates of self-harm, particularly for those young people who do not present at hospital with their injuries, the HBSC study also allows us to examine the relationship between self-harm and different elements of young people’s lives.

Our recent article sought to identify factors from the family, school and community which may help protect young people against self-harming. The study utilised data from a total of 1519 15 year olds who participated in the 2014 HBSC England survey. Self-harm was measured via the question “Have you ever deliberately hurt yourself in some way, such as cut or hit yourself on purpose or taken an overdose?”

The analysis identified key elements which were associated with self-harming including gender, family communication and a positive perception of the school and neighbourhood environments. In line with existing research6, the analysis identified girls were at a greater risk of self-harming compared to boys. The paper highlights the important role parents may play in preventing self-harm, as young people who found it difficult to talk to their mother and father had a greater chance of reporting self-harm than those who described family communication as easy.

For a more thorough discussion of our latest findings the full paper can be found by clicking here. The International Journal of Public Health have also created a useful visual summary of this paper which you can access here


1. National Self Harm Network. What is self harm? NSHM. Retrieved October, 5, 2016 from

2. Hawton, K., Saunders, K. & O’Connor, R, (2012). Self-harm and suicide in adolescents. The Lancet, 379, 2373-82.

3. Kidger, J., Heron, J., Lewis, G., Evans, J. & Gunnel, D. (2012). Adolescent self-harm and suicidal thoughts in the ALSPAC cohort: a self-report survey in England. BMC Psyhiatry, 12, 69.

4. Collishaw, S., Maughan, B., Goodman, R. & Pickles, A. (2004). Time trends in adolescent mental health. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(8), 1350-62.

6. Hagell, A. (2013). Adolescent self-harm: AYPH Research Summary No. 13. Association for Young People's Health (AYPH) & ChiMat.

7. Hawton, K., Rodham, K., Evans, E., & Weatherall, R. (2002). Deliberate self-harm in adolescents: self-report survey in schools in England. BMJ, 325, 1207–11