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Jacky Boivin  BA MA PhD Concordia (Canada)

Professor Jacky Boivin

BA MA PhD Concordia (Canada)


School of Psychology

+44 29208 75289
Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision


Research summary

My  research has been organized around a set of interrelated questions that address  how and why psychological factors affect fertility, from understanding the  processes that underpin the desire and timing of having children through to the  adaptation process when attempts to conceive succeed or fail. The trajectory of  my research has been informed by developments in reproductive medicine and,  conversely, it has informed practice and policy in reproductive health.  Additionally, I have interests in more  general topics in health and developmental psychology including how to  communicate health-related science/news and the origins of child developmental  disorders.  As a trained  scientist-practitioner a core feature of my work has been to use research to develop,  evaluate and implement diverse tools to support people trying to conceive and  stakeholders involved in fertility and reproductive health (practitioners,  advocates, and policy makers).   Our research has been funded through the  research councils, industrial partnerships, medical societies and charities in  the UK and abroad, and has involved multidisciplinary collaborations with  academics, fellows, postgraduates, and diverse stakeholders.

See  the Research tab above for more information about these projects and reports to government and industry.

Download the Drawing Health: Experiences of Endometriosis in Wales booklet (PDF)

Download the Endometriosis report for Wales (PDF).

Infertility and reproductive health projects

  1. Fertility awareness and engagement projects to  improve knowledge about fertility (biology, fecundity, fecundability), the  signs, symptoms and preventable causes of fertility problems, and the  reproductive options available to meet desired parenthood goals.  These studies also examine how people engage and disengage with the goal of starting a family. To demonstrate this, we developed a conceptual model of prevention for fertility problems.
  2. Fertility affecting Psychology projects to understand the  burden of fertility problems and their treatment on quality of life, and  emotional, relational and social life domains in men and women.
  3. Psychology affecting Fertility projects to understand the  reciprocal, direct and indirect links between psychological factors (stress,  lifestyle, behaviour) and success/failure to conceive.
  4. Intervention and coping support projects to develop evidence based interventions that can be implemented in educational  institutions, health services or for public health.
  5. Pregnancy and parenthood projects to better understand how the experience of fertility problems and infertility affects  pregnancy and early child development.

Teaching summary

PS2006 Year II Research Design, Statistics and computing (5  statistics lectures)
PS3115 Stress and Disease (5 double lectures)

Externally: Continuing Medical Education courses for  practitioners at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embrylogy.

































Book sections



  • Boivin, J. 2007. Stress and how it relates to IVF [Abstract]. Presented at: 14th World Congress on In Vitro Fertilization & 3rd World Congress on In Vitro Maturation, Montreal, Canada, 15-19 September 2007 Presented at Lin Tan, S. et al. eds.14th World Congress on In Vitro Fertilization & 3rd World Congress on In Vitro Maturation. Pianoro: Medimond pp. 325-326.
  • Boivin, J. 2006. Counseling for infertility and its treatment. Presented at: International Congress "The 'Normal' Complexities of Coming into the World", Modena, Italy, 28-30 September 2006 Presented at La Sala, G. B. et al. eds.Coming into the world: a dialogue between medical and human sciences. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter pp. 123-136.


Research topics and related papers

The Cardiff Fertility Studies research group implements a rigorous research orientated approach to psychological aspects of fertility and reproductive health. Illustrative examples of the multidisciplinary work is shown below.

Infertility and reproductive health projects

1. Fertility awareness and engagement projects to  improve knowledge about fertility (biology, fecundity, fecundability), the signs, symptoms and preventable causes of fertility problems, and the  reproductive options available to meet desired parenthood goals. These studies also examine how people engage  and disengage with the goal of starting a family.

2. Fertility affecting Psychology projects to understand the burden of fertility problems and their treatment on quality of life, and emotional, relational and social life domains in men and women e.g. effects of Endometriosis (PCOS).

3. Psychology affecting Fertility projects to understand the reciprocal, direct and indirect links between psychological factors (stress, lifestyle, behaviour) and success/failure to conceive.

4. Intervention and coping support projects to develop evidence based interventions that can be implemented in educational  institutions, health services or for public health.

5. Pregnancy and parenthood projects to better understand how the experience of fertility problems and infertility affects  pregnancy and early child development.

(see Publication tab for other projects on reproductive health topics, e.g use of fertility  preservation, preconception health, screening for psychological vulnerability, decision-making, patient-centred care)

General health projects

6. InSciOut projects to understand health-related science communication and optimise the press release so its use by journalists can be enhanced for the  health benefit of readers.

7. Cardiff IVF Gene-Environment project to test and  use a novel paradigm utilising modes of conception in IVF (e.g., sperm and egg  donation, surrogacy) to better understand genetic and environmental influences  on child development.

More detailed information on my research projects

1.  Fertility awareness and engagement projects

In this research track we have examined the prevalence of fertility problems and patterns of help-seeking internationally showing that 9 to 15% of people experience fertility problems, but only about  55% ever seek medical advice about these problems (Boivin et al. 2007). Rates are higher in low and middle-income countries, especially secondary infertility  after having one child.

The Fertility Pathways project brought together 25 researchers and practitioners  (psychologists, demographers, economists, anthropologists, sociologists) to stimulate discussion on decision-making about whether and when to have children  in a series of seminars. The seminars led to additional work with industry on how couples develop an understanding that they may have a fertility problem.

One project was an international survey with 10,045 participants in 13 countries showing poor fertility knowledge among men and women (Bunting et al. 2013). To  help people learn more about their fertility we developed a fertility awareness tool (Fertility Status Awareness Tool, FertiSTAT) and showed it could  differentiate between medically confirmed fertile and infertile women with a high  degree of accuracy 85% (Bunting & Boivin, 2010.

We also examined the acceptability of using fertility awareness tools in diverse countries and showed that tools developed in western countries often omit risk factors prevalent in non-western countries (e.g., genital tuberculosis, consanguineous marriage) (Bayoumi et  al., under review). This research also showed that implementation of fertility awareness tools could be acceptable and feasible in the Middle East but only if  culturally tailored.

We have promoted fertility education, partnering with the Fertility Education Initiative (consortium set-up by the British Fertility Society) to encourage policy-makers  to deliver fertility information to young people to make informed decisions  about factors that could impact future fertility (Boivin et al. 2013; Harper,  Boivin et al. 2017). We have shown that  a benefit of providing people with fertility information is increased knowledge but a cost is increased worry about fertility problems (Maeda et al.  2013). Our research also shows that many factors impact on engaging and disengaging with the project to start a family  (da Silva et al. 2016).  Our on-going  projects concern evaluating what are the costs and benefits of fertility  education in younger people (16 – 18 years old) and emerging adults (21 to 24  year olds) using the 'A Guide to Fertility’, an  educational tool we developed.

Some relevant studies and funding partners:

Bayoumi, R.R., van der Poel, S., El  Samani, E. Z., Boivin, J. (under review). An evaluation of comprehensiveness,  feasibility and acceptability of a fertility awareness educational tool.

Boivin, J. Bunting, L, Gameiro, S  (2013). Cassandra's prophecy: a psychological perspective: why we need to do  more than just tell women about age-related fertility decline and 'delayed'  childbearing. Reproductive BioMedicine Online 27 (2013), pp. 11-14.

Boivin, J., Bunting, L., Collins,  J.A., and Nygren, K. (2007). An international estimate of infertility  prevalence & treatment-seeking: Potential need & demand for infertility  medical care. Human Reproduction; 22:1506-1512.

Bunting, L. & Boivin, J. (2010).  Development and preliminary validation of the Fertility Status Awareness Tool:  FertiSTAT.  Human Reproduction,  25,  7, 1722–1733.

Bunting,  L., Tsibulsky, I. & Boivin J. (2012) Fertility knowledge and beliefs about  fertility treatment: findings from the International Fertility Decision-making  Study.

da  Silva, S. M., Boivin, J., & Gameiro, S. (2016). Self-Regulation and  Wellbeing When Facing a Blocked Parenthood Goal: A Systematic Review and  Meta-Analysis. PloS one, 11(6), e0157649.

Harper, J., Boivin, et  al. 2017. The need to improve fertility awareness. Reproductive Biomedicine  & Society Online, 4, pp.18-20.

Maeda E. Nakamura F.  Kobayashi Y. Boivin J. Sugimori H. Murata K. and Saito H. (2016). Effects of  fertility education on knowledge, desires, and anxiety among the  reproductive-aged population: Findings from a randomized controlled trial in  Japan. Human Reproduction. 31 (9): 2051-2060.

Funding for these projects: Economic and Social Research  Council, Global Challenges Research Fund, World Health Organization/Human  Reproduction Research Programme (WHO/HRP; the UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank  Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human  Reproduction), Merck Serono, SA. Economic and Social Research Council & Medical Research Council (Post-doctoral Fellowship)

2.  Fertility affecting Psychology projects

Parenthood is a near universally desired goal  of adulthood but about 9 to 15% will have difficulties achieving that  goal.  The effect of fertility and  reproductive problems on wellbeing is significant. We have shown in numerous  publications and our historical account of the field (Boivin & Gameiro,  2015) that infertility can have important impacts on quality of life and can  lead to significant impacts in many life domains (see full list on Publication tab).  Further, some problems seem to be more consistently associated with emotional  problems due to its characteristics (e.g., obesity in polycystic ovary syndrome  (Veltman –Verhulst et al. 2014). We developed the fertility quality of life  (FertiQoL) tool to have a common (standard) measurement tool to advance practice  and research in health service-evaluation, improvement of patient centred care  and satisfaction and policy-making (Boivin et al. 2010). FertiQoL is now  available in 44 languages (see and used internationally in  practice and research. Current research in this topic area uses visual,  narrative and creative research methods to understand the symptoms and  help-seeking among women with endometriosis using the DrawingOut Health method  Sofia Gameiro and Elisabeth El Rafie developed (see Thorns and  Flowers).

Download the Endometriosis report for Wales (PDF).

We are also interested in bidirectional links between the  psychology of patients and their healthcare providers. Our integrated approach to fertility care suggests that patient, staff and treatment factors impact  each other to affect quality of life and treatment trajectories (Boivin et al.  2012). Reciprocal influences might be, for example, that pre-existing emotional problems originating in the patient (e.g. depression) add to the burden of providing treatment to these patients but (conversely) that depression can also be a consequence of the many demands treatment makes on people. Staff can cause emotional distress in patients because of the bad news they must deliver (e.g. failed stimulation Boivin, 2000) but patient reactions to this bad news can cause problems for staff (e.g. distress, time demand, Boivin et al. 2017).

See full publication tab for diverse studies on the impact of infertility and its treatment, but some relevant studies and funding partners:

Boivin, J., Bunting, L., Koert, E., ieng U, C., & Verhaak, C. (2017). Perceived  challenges of working in a fertility clinic: a qualitative analysis of work  stressors and difficulties working with patients. Human Reproduction, 32(2),  403-408.

Boivin J, Domar A, Shapiro D, Wischmann T, Fauser B, Verhaak C. Tackling burden in  ART: an integrated approach for medical staff. Hum Reprod. 2012;27(4):941-950.

Boivin, J., & Gameiro, S. (2015). Evolution of psychology and counseling in  infertility. Fertility  and sterility, 104(2),  251-259.

Boivin, J, Takefman, J, Braverman, A. The  fertility quality of life (FertiQoL) tool: development and general psychometric  properties (2011).  Human  Reproduction, 26(8), 2084–2091.

Veltman-Verhulst, S., Boivin, J., Eikjemans, E.,  Fauser, B. Emotional distress in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A  systematic review and meta-analysis.  Human Reproduction  Update, Vol.18, No.6 pp. 638–651, 2012.

Funding for this research: Department of Reproductive Medicine and Gynecology, University Medical Center Utrecht (S Veltman-Verhulst, PhD), European  Society for Human Reproduction & Embryology, American Society for  Reproductive Medicine, Serono International SA. Development and validation of  an international Fertility Quality of Life (FertiQoL) measure (2006-2007). [see  Publication for impact studies].

3.  Psychology affecting Fertility projects

Women (and men) worry that emotional distress is a cause of their failure to conceive spontaneously or with treatment. Our research has shown that emotional distress at the start of treatment is not associated with treatment failure on a single cycle of  treatment (Boivin et al. 2010). However, we have also shown that 22% of  patients drop out of treatment, mainly due to the emotional stress of undergoing treatment (Gameiro et al. 2012, 2013).

Further, if distressed patients stay in treatment, they require more treatment cycles to conceive (Boivin et al. 2005) but this could be because they engage in other activities that appear to reduce the chance of pregnancy. For example, use of complementary and alternative medicines that  potentially interact with fertility medication, Boivin et al. 2009). Current projects concern investigating how psychological  and lifestyle factors impact on treatment outcome and discontinuation.

Boivin, J & Griffiths E, Venetis, C. Emotional distress in infertile women and failure of assisted  reproductive technologies: meta-analysis of prospective psychosocial studies British Medical Journal. BMJ 2011; 342:223-31.

Boivin, J. & Schmidt, L. (2009) Use of complementary and alternative medicines associated with a 30%  lower ongoing pregnancy/live birth rate during 12-months of fertility  treatment. Human Reproduction, 24(7):1626-1631.

Boivin, J. & Schmidt, L. (2005). Infertility-related stress in men and women predicts treatment outcome  one year later. Fertility and Sterility, 83 (6), 1745-1752.

Gameiro, S, Verhaak, CM, Kremer, J,  Boivin J. (2013). Why we should talk about compliance with  Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART): A systematic review and meta-analysis  of ART compliance rates. Human Reproduction Update 19 (2): 124-135.

Gameiro, S, Boivin, J, Peronace, L,  Verhaak, CM (2012). Why do patients discontinue fertility treatment? A  systematic review of reasons and predictors of discontinuation in fertility  treatment. Human Reproduction Update,18 (6), 652–669.

Funding for this research: Danish Health Foundation, Else  and Mogens Wedell-Wedellsborg Foundation, Daielsen & Widows Foundation and  LF Foght Foundation, Merchants L.F. Foghts Fund, Madsen Fund, Rohde Fund,  International Conference Service, Organon, Serono, University of Copenhagen,  Cardiff, University, Fertility Clinics; Portuguese Foundation for Science and  Technology; Merck Serono SA, Switzerland

4.  Intervention and coping support projects

In a review I showed that only 6% of studies that recommended psychological interventions in infertility were concerned with  developing or evaluating interventions (Boivin, 2003). We have developed therapist led interventions to support couples (e.g., Schmidt et al. 2005) but at Cardiff we decided to  focus on inexpensive interventions that could be delivered by medical staff.  One series of studies has evaluated the  feasibility, acceptability and effect of the Positive Reappraisal Coping Intervention (PRCI, developed in Cardiff).

The PRCI developed to support people cope with stressful medical waiting periods and comprises of an explanatory leaflet and ten statements that are read daily to promote reappraisal coping that helps people re-framing a situation to see it in a positive light.

Waiting is the period of time before an event or outcome occurs. Medical waiting periods are ubiquitous; everyone will wait for a medical test, procedure or appointment at some point. Medical waiting periods can be demanding; the patient cannot control the results, nor predict them, and in many cases the results have immense personal significance. We have shown that the uncertainty associated with waiting produces anxiety, worry and rumination that escalate and become more intense as the day of the test result approaches (Boivin & Lancastle, 2010).

Because people do not yet know which of the possible outcomes will occur there can be arrest of the coping process and failure to cope could have health implications. We developed the PRCI tool to help support patients cope during medical waiting periods  (Lancastle & Boivin, 2008). Since its development we have shown that PRCI helps generate positive emotions during waiting and helps people carry on coping in women awaiting pregnancy test results following fertility treatment (Ockhuijsen et al. 2014), and women with recurrent miscarriage waiting for the 3rd trimester pregnancy scans (Ockhuijsen et al. 2015; Bailey et al. 2015). We have also shown that PRCI can increase emotional quality of life and help patients stay in treatment (Domar et al.  2015). Current projects in this track are to transfer the use of the PRCI to medical waiting periods for other health  contexts (e.g., cancer). (See figures 12 and 15)

Boivin, J. (2003). A review  of psychosocial interventions in infertility. Social Science and Medicine, 57  (12), 2325-2341.

Bailey, S., Bailey, C.,  Boivin, J., Cheong, Y., Reading, I., & Macklon, N. (2015). A feasibility  study for a randomised controlled trial of the Positive Reappraisal Coping  Intervention, a novel supportive technique for recurrent miscarriage. BMJ open,  5(4), e007322. (ongoing)

Boivin, J. & Lancastle,  D. (2010). Medical waiting periods: Imminence, emotions and coping.  Women’s Health, 6(1),  59-69.

Domar AD, Gross J, Rooney K,  Boivin J (Aug 2015).  Exploratory  randomized trial on the effect of a brief psychological intervention on  emotions, quality of life, discontinuation, and pregnancy rates in in vitro  fertilization patients. Fertility Sterility. 104(2):440-451.e7. Epub 2015 Jun 13.

Ockhuijsen, HDL, van den  Hoogen, A, Eijkemans, MJC, Macklon, N, Boivin, J (2014).  The impact of a self-administered coping  intervention on emotional well-being in women awaiting the outcome of IVF  treatment: a randomized controlled trial. Human Reproduction, 29(7),  1459-1470,  JUL 2014
Ockhuijsen HDL, Boivin J,  Macklon NS, de Boer F (Nov 2015), Exploring a self-help coping intervention for  pregnant women with a miscarriage history. Applied Nursing Research, 28(4),  285–292.

Schmidt, L.,  Tjornhoj-Thomsen, T., Boivin, J., Nyboe-Andersen. Evaluation of a communication  and stress management training programme for infertile couples (2005). Patient  Education and Counselling, 59, 252-262.

Funding for this research: UMC, Netherlands; National Institute for Health Research; Schering-Plough (now Merck & Co.) (with A Domar, Harvard University):  An Assessment of the Effect of a Brief Psychological Intervention on Decreasing  Drop-Out Rates in IVF Patients: A Pilot Study. 2011. Economic and social  research council; Danish Health Foundation.

5. Pregnancy and parenthood projects

Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are increasingly used to achieve parenthood (3 to 5% of births) due partly to increasing maternal age at first birth. Identifying whether and how the use of ART impacts the transition to parenthood and child outcomes has been studied but disentangling effects due to maternal age from mode of conception had not.

Together with our collaborators we designed two large-scale studies with more than 500 families each to address this question in Australian and British  families. The Parental Age and Transition to Parenthood Australia (PATPA) study showed that during pregnancy (31 weeks) women conceiving with ART more  pregnancy-specific anxieties and more intense emotional attachment to the foetus (McMahon et al. 2011). However this anxiety was predictive of infant temperament at 4 months postpartum (McMahon et al. 2013).

Maternal age seems to have some benefits early in infant life (7 months) in terms of maternal sensitivity and responsivity (Camberis et al. 2016). However, structural equation modelling showed that maternal age was positively associated with psychological maturity, and that it was maturity that was linked to more optimal adjustment to pregnancy and early motherhood (Camberis et al. 2014). Importantly, this benefit was seen irrespective of how the child was  conceived.

At two years post-partum  older first time mothers are not more likely to have major depressive symptoms (McMahon et al. 2015). However, the Cardiff  IVF study at 5 to 6 years of child age, older mothers and fathers reported more depressive symptoms and less expressed warmth in the couple and was not associated to the wellbeing of children (Boivin et al. 2009). Furthermore, the adjustment of children conceived with ART was similar whether they were genetically related or unrelated to their parents or born by gestational surrogacy do not differ in their levels of psychological adjustment, and did not differ with children conceived spontaneously (Shelton et al. 2009).

Camberis  AL, McMahon, C, Gibson, F, Boivin, J (2014). Age, Psychological Maturity, and the Transition to Motherhood Among English-Speaking  Australian Women in a Metropolitan Area. Developmental Psychology, 50 (8), 2154–2164.

Camberis,  A. L., McMahon, C. A., Gibson, F. L., & Boivin, J. (2015). Maternal Age,  Psychological Maturity, Parenting Cognitions, and Mother–Infant Interaction.  Infancy, 21(4), 396–422, 2016.

McMahon CA, Boivin J, Gibson FL, Hammarberg K, Wynter K,  Saunders D, Fisher J. (2011) Age at first birth, mode of conception and  psychological wellbeing in pregnancy: findings from the parental age and  transition to parenthood Australia (PATPA) study, Human Reproduction, 26 (6):  1389-1398.

McMahon, C., Boivin, J.,  Gibson, F., Hammarberg, K., Wynter, K., Saunders, D., Fisher, J. (2013).  Pregnancy specific anxiety, ART conception and infant temperament at four  months postpartum. Human Reproduction 2013 Apr;28(4):997-1005. [Feb 20 2013].

McMahon CA, Boivin J, Gibson FL, Hammarberg K, Wynter K,  Saunders D, Fisher J. (2011) Age at first birth, mode of conception and  psychological wellbeing in pregnancy: findings from the parental age and  transition to parenthood Australia (PATPA) study, Human Reproduction, 26 (6):  1389-1398.

McMahon CA, Boivin J, Gibson FL, Fisher J, Hammarberg K,  Wynter K, Saunders D. (2011). Older first-time  mothers and early postpartum depression: A prospective cohort study of women  conceiving spontaneously or with assisted reproductive technologies. Fertility  and Sterility, 96, 1218–24.

McMahon  CA, Gibson F, Hammarberg K, Wynter K, Fisher J, Boivin J. (Apr 2015). Older  maternal age and major depressive episodes in the first two years after birth:  Findings from the Parental age and Transition to Parenthood Study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 175, 454-462.

Boivin,  J, Rice, F, Hay, D, Harold, G, Lewis A, van den Bree, M, Thapar, A. (2009)  Associations between maternal older age, family environment and parent and  child wellbeing in families using assisted reproductive techniques to  conceive.  Social Science & Medicine,  68(11), 1909-2096.
Shelton  et al. 2009.

Funding for this research: Australian Research Council and Wellcome  Trust Project grant.

6. InSciOut  projects

Most people get health related information  through the media. These news stories have the potential to create significant changes in health-related behaviour (e.g scares about MMR vaccinations). Consequently it is important that news stories accurately reflect science. However, when something does go wrong, where does it go wrong.

The InSciOut research group (see our page: InSciOut) has been investigating what transpires in  the health communication chain as information progresses from scientists to  press officers to journalists. We analysed all the biology and health-related press releases from the 'Russell  Group’ universities in the UK in 2011 to see what happens in this chain. We found that exaggeration starts with the press release whether it is issued from the University (Sumner et al. 2014) or from the journal in which the science was unpublished (Sumner et al. 2016).

Specifically, 40% of press releases contained exaggerated advice, 33% exaggerated causal claims, and 36% contained exaggerated inference to humans from animal research. When press releases contained such exaggeration, 58% to  86% of the news stories (respectively) also contained similar exaggeration, compared with exaggeration rates of 10 to 18% when the press releases were not exaggerated.

We have also examined how readers understand the causal language used in health-related news. For  example, can readers differentiate between a correlative conclusion (“Being breast fed is correlated with good behaviour”) and a causal conclusion (“Being breast fed results in good behaviour”). We found that readers could differentiate causal strength and differentiate between directly causal words  (e.g cuts, boosts, harms), capability phrases (e.g can harm, can boost) and hedged or associative phrases (e.g. may harm, might harm, associated with, linked to) (Adams et  al. 2017).

We are now investigating whether this ability could be used to inform press releases in a way that would  benefit rather than hinder health. We are currently at the end of a project collaborating with press officers to study  press releases in the real world – looking at how different styles or phrasing might be more or less likely to mislead.

Adams,  RC, Sumner, P., Williams, A. Boivin, J, Chambers, CD, Vivian-Griffiths, S.  Bott, L.  2017 How readers understand causal and correlational expressions used in news headlines. Journal  of Experimental Psychology: Applied. 23(1), pp. 1-14.

Sumner, al. 2016. Exaggerations and caveats in press releases and health-related  science news. Plos One 11(12), article number: e0168217.

Sumner,  P, Vivian-Griffiths, S., Boivin, J, Williams, A, Venetis, CA, Davies, A, Ogden,  J, Whelan, L, Hughes, B, Dalton B, Boy, F, Chambers,CD (2014). Most exaggeration in health-related science news is already present in  academic press releases. British  Medical Journal, 2014;349:g7015.

Funding for this research: Economic and Social Research Council

7. Cardiff IVF Gene-Environment project

In this study we compared development of children that were conceived through ART and were genetically related or unrelated to woman who underwent the pregnancy. This design allowed us to disentangle whether developmental outcomes were due to genetic or intrauterine effects. We showed that smoking in pregnancy was associated to lower birthweight in genetically related and unrelated groups suggesting an intrauterine effect  (Thapar et al. 2009). However, for  symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) the association was greater for genetically related than unrelated pairs, suggesting inherited  effects.

Similar results were obtained when examining effects of smoking on antisocial behaviour, with greater evidence of inherited effects (Rice et al.  2009). We also showed that intergenerational transmission of depressive symptoms and aggression was mediated through environmental mechanisms because parent-child associations were similar regardless of whether the mother was biological related or unrelated to the foetus during pregnancy.

Boivin, J, Rice,  F, Hay, D, Harold, G, Lewis A, van den Bree, M, Thapar, A. (2009) Associations between maternal  older age, family environment and parent and child wellbeing in families using  assisted reproductive techniques to conceive.  Social Science & Medicine,  68(11), 1909-2096.

Harold, GH, Rice, F, Hay, DF,  Boivin, J, van den Bree, M, Thapar, A. Familial transmission of depression and  antisocial behaviour symptoms: disentangling the contribution of inherited and  environmental factors and testing the mediating role of parenting (2010: 22:1-11.  Psychological Medicine.

Rice, F, Harold, GT, Boivin,  J, van den Bree, M, Hay, DF, Thapar, A.   (2010). The links between prenatal  stress and offspring development and psychopathology: disentangling  environmental and inherited influences. Psychological  Medicine, 40, 335–345.

Thapar, A. Rice,  F., Hay, D., Boivin, J., Langley, K., van den Bree, M., Rutter, M., &  Harold, G. (2009).  Prenatal smoking may not cause ADHD. Evidence  from a novel design. Biological Psychiatry. Oct 15;66(8):722-7

Funding for this research: Wellcome Trust Showcase grant


Research projects have been funded by ESRC, British Council, BBSRC,   MRC, Wellcome Trust, Australian Research Council and various industrial   partners.

Research group

Cardiff Fertility Studies Research Group

We study all aspects of fertility health to better understand the experiences of men and women trying to become parents. Our work creates the science to support people trying to become parents because it:

  • Helps to better document the experiences of people trying to conceive
  • Supports people trying to conceive
  • Optimises conditions for fertility
  • Guides professionals to take a patient-centred approach in their care of people trying to conceive
  • Provides the evidence that policy makers need to prioritise fertility issues

Research collaborators

  • Janet  Takefman, (McGill University)
  • Alice Domar (Harvard University, U.S.A)
  • Bart Fauser (UMC Utrecht, Netherlands)
  • Christianne M. Verhaak (University Medical Center Nijmegen,Dept. of Medical   Psychology )
  • Tewes Wischmann (Heidelberg University, Germany)
  • Cathy McMahon, Macquarie (PATPA project)
  • Karen Henwood (Social Sciences, Cardiff University)
  • William Ledger (MedicineUniversity of Sheffield)
  • Maria Iacovou (Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex)
  • Natalia Lawrence (Psychology, Cardiff University)
  • Glyn Elwyn (Primary Care & Public Health, Cardiff University)
  • Catherine Hakim (London School of Economics)
  • Nick Macklon (Medicine, University of Southampton)
  • Rona Moss-Morris (Psychology, University of Southampton)
  • Karl Nygren (University of Uppsala, Sweden)
  • Guido Pennings (Bioethics Institute Ghent, Ghent University)
  • Stavros Petrou (Health Economics Research Centre, Oxford University)
  • Santi Rozario (Religious and Theological Studies, Cardiff University)
  • Geoffrey Samuel (Religious and Theological Studies, Cardiff University)
  • Lone Schmidt (University of Copenhagen)
  • Fiona Shirani (Social Sciences, Cardiff University)
  • Ruth Turley (Support Unit for Research Evidence [SURE], Cardiff University)
  • Mirella Yani-de-Soriano (Cardiff Business School)
  • Tomas Sobotka (Vienna Institute of Demography)
  • Sofia Gameiro (University of Coimbra, Portugal)


PS2006 Year II Research Design, Statistics and computing (5 statistics lectures).

PS3115 Stress and Disease (5 double lectures).

Postgraduate statistics (4 double lectures on multivariate statistics).

Development, Growth and Reproduction Medics lectures (2 x 1 lectures).


Undergraduate education

Bachelor of Arts, Honours in Psychology, Concordia University (May, 1986). Conferred with distinction.

Postgraduate education

Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology, Concordia University (January, 1995).

Master of Arts, Clinical Psychology, Concordia University (May, 1990).


My contribution to the field, academic standing and credibility have been recognised through awards, prestigious appointments, multidisciplinary collaborations and membership in consortia, networks, editorial boards and other influential national and international organisations in the field.


Postgraduate research interests

My  general area of research is health psychology and my specific interests are in  reproductive health. My research concerns:

  1. psychobiological influences, for example stress effects on ovarian function, sperm quality or pregnancy rates with fertility treatment
  2. coping and brief coping interventions for fertility patients
  3. evaluation of quality of life in people with fertility problems
  4. contemporary reproductive decision-making (e.g. whether, when  and how many children to have) and its determinants
  5. transition to parenthood in older first time mothers.

If  you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding  my postgraduate research, please contact me directly, or submit a formal application.

Current students

Melda  Lois Griffiths (Year 1) Healthy Vending Machines in Welsh Hospitals. ESRC Wales DTC (1 + 3) studentship (part funded School of Psychology, industrial partner Aneurin Bevan University Health Board), joint  supervisor with L Bott.

Hobbs, R. (Year 1). Management of uncertainty, and uptake and waiting for HIV testing in gay men in Wales. Clinical Doctorate.

Bayoumi  Rasha (submitted, awaiting viva voce). Fertility Awareness and health care provider tools for research. World Health Organisation Work Performance Package (part funded School of Psychology) .