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Katherine Shelton  BSc PhD Cardiff

Professor Katherine Shelton BSc PhD Cardiff

Head of School

School of Psychology

+44 29208 76093
Tower Building, Room 3.02, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT


I serve as Head of School.

Research summary

I am a developmental psychologist with interests in the emergence and maintenance of developmental psychopathology in social contexts during childhood and adolescence.  I am particularly interested in the  relationship between aspects of family functioning and children’s psychological  well-being.

Current research includes working with Dr Rachel Hiller (University College London) and Professor Lisa Holmes (University of Sussex) on an MRC-funded study (Rethink) investigating the psychological mechanisms that chacterise transitions for care-experienced young people.  I lead the Wales Adoption Cohort Study, now in its 6th wave of data collection, which focuses on the experiences and well-being of families in the years following an adoptive placement. This research study provided the evidence base for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with St. David's Children Society to embed an innovative model of service delivery for adoptive families:  Adopting Together: supporting the adoption of children who wait the longest - School of Psychology - Cardiff University























Adrannau llyfrau



Research topics and related papers

My research is primarilly concerned with identifying and understanding the psychological and social needs of vulnerable children and young people, particularly those who experience social exclusion. The contribution of my work in recent years has been twofold: (1) to highlight the high level of mental health problems among young people with experience of homelessness and (2) to shed light on the challenges facing statutory providers responsible for supporting children adopted from care. To this end, I led the first national study of adoption in Wales which informed policy and practice regarding the support needs of families and children.


Burch, K., Richardson F., Neil, B., Shelton, K.H, et al. (2023-2024). Evaluation of multi-disciplinary approaches to adoption support. Leeds City Council. £224k.

Shelton, K.H. & Genc, S. (2022-2024). Cardiff University Research Network: Neurodevelopment. £14.9k

Shelton, K.H. & Jones, D.K. and colleagues (2021-2022). Cardiff University Research Infrastructure Fund. £51k

Hiller, R., Holmes, L., Selwyn, J., Shelton, K.H., MacLeod, J., Siraj, I., Briheim-Cookam, L., & Woodhead, A. (2021-2025). The shaping of mental health and the mechanisms leading to (un)successful transitions for care-experienced young people. UKRI. £2.8M.

Van Goozen S.H.M, Thapar, A., Shelton, K.H, Langley, K. Hobson, C., Jones, C., Waters, C., & Higgins, A. (2021-2024). Neurodevelopmental Disorders Assessment Unit Feasibility Study: Extension. The Waterloo Foundation. £177,222.

Van Goozen S.H.M, Thapar, A., Collishaw, S., Shelton, K.H, Langley, K. Hobson, C., Burley, D. (2020-2021). Psychosocial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic: Identifying mental health problems and supporting wellbeing in vulnerable children and families. ESRC:Research Grant (ES/V009427/1). £512,762.

Shelton, K.H. & Paine, A.L. (2020-2021). The Wales Adoption Cohort Study. Welsh Government.

Forrester, D,. Ford, D., Robling, M., Rees, A., Wilkins, D., & Shelton, K.H. (2020-2023). Children's Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) Partnership. Health and Care Research Wales. £2.45M.

Shelton, K.H. & Merchant, C. (2019). Adopting Together:  An individualised recruitment and therapeutic early intervention support strategy for priority children. Economic and Social Research Council Impact Acceleration Award.

Shelton, K.H. (2018-2019). The Association between Early Trauma and Psychological Well-Being: A Prospective, Longitudinal Study of Children Adopted from Care. The Waterloo Foundation.

Shelton, K.H. (2018-2019). The Wales Adoption Cohort Study. Welsh Government.

Shelton, K.H. (2018-2020). Evaluation of a Psychologically Informed Environment. Llamau.

Shelton, K.H. Lynch, J., & Waters, C. (2017-2019). Knowledge Transfer Partnership with St. David's Children Society to implement post-adoption support. Innovate UK. £171,655. End of award report graded, 'Outstanding'. Winner of the Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Network Societal Impact Award, 2021. Adopting Together: supporting the adoption of children who wait the longest - School of Psychology - Cardiff University

Arribas-Ayllon, M. Clarke, A. & Shelton, K.H. (2017). Genome testing in adoption: from new uncertainties to family-formation. Wellcome Trust. £30,564.

Shelton, K.H., Jones, C., & Langley, K. (2016). Autism spectrum disorder and experience of homelessness: A creative arts project. Arts Council of Wales. £3225.

Shelton, K.H., Holland. S., Ottaway, H., & Doughty, J., (2013 with funding starting  October 2014 to September 2016). Understanding the elements of early  placement success for adopted children and their families. National Institute  for Social Care and Health Research (NISCHR). £198,722.

Rice, F., Frederickson, N., Shelton, K.H., McManus, C. (2011-2013). Examining pathways linking
psychological adjustment and academic attainment across the transition to secondary school. Nuffield
Foundation. £111,474. [link]

van den Bree, M.B.M., Shelton, K.H., Heron, J., Munafo, M., Hickman, M &   Maughan, B. (2011-2013).  Peer group influences on the relationship between   depressive symptoms and alcohol misuse in adolescence. European Research   Advisory Board. €94,486.

Shelton, K.H. & van den Bree M.B.M. (2010 - 2013). Knowledge Transfer Partnership: £129,456. The needs of young people with homelessness experiences. End of award report graded, 'Outstanding'. Winner of the Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Network Societal Impact Award, 2015.

Shelton, K.H. (2003-4). Marital conflict, children’s coping strategies and   their psychological adjustment: A process-oriented analysis. Economic and Social  Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship. £27,117.


Teaching summary

I convene a Level 6 module, 'Developmental Psychopathology in Childhood and Adolescence’ that I co-teach with Professor Stephanie van Goozen.

At postgraduate level, I teach on the Masters (MSc) in Children's Psychological Disorders. 



Undergraduate education

1999: Bachelor of Science, University of Wales, Cardiff. First Class   Honours.

Postgraduate education

2003: Doctor of Philosophy, Psychology. Cardiff University.

2011: Postgraduate  Certificate in Undergraduate Teaching and Learning. Higher Education Academy.


2023 -: Head of School. 

2019 - : Professor, School of Psychology, Cardiff University

2017 - 2019: Reader, School of Psychology, Cardiff University.

2009 - 2016: Lecturer; Senior Lecturer. School of Psychology, Cardiff University.

2007 - 2008: Research and Teaching Fellow. School of Psychology, Cardiff University.

2004 - 2006: Research Psychologist, Department of Psychological Medicine, School of Medicine, Cardiff University.

2003 - 2004: ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Psychology, Cardiff University.

1998 - 1999: Research Assistant, City University, London.

1997 - 1998: Research Assistant, School of Psychology, Cardiff   University.

Honours and awards


2018: Knowledge Transfer Partnership with St. David’s Children Society (2017-2020).

  • Winner of the Innovate UK Societal Impact Award (2021).
  • Winner of the Institute for Collaborative Working (ICW) award in the category of Innovation. The winner was announced at a ceremony at the House of Lords on the 13th December 2018.
  • Highly commended finalist for the Career Confident Social and Community Benefit award (November 8th 2018).

2015:  Awarded the Research Council UK Best of the Best KTP – Societal Benefit.

2015: Cardiff University Innovation and Impact Awards Competition Social Innovation Award.

2005: Travel Fellowship, Behavior Genetics Association.

2003: Postdoctoral Fellowship, Economic and Social Research Council.

2001: Charles Cole Travelling Scholarship, Cardiff University for a research   visit to University California, Davis.

1999: Stuart Dimond memorial prize for best final year undergraduate research project, Cardiff University.

Professional memberships

2016 - present: Coram BAAF Research Advisory Group

2015 - present: National Adoption Service Advisory Group.

2019 - present: Chair of St David's Children Society Board of Trustees.

Committees and reviewing

Editorial Board, Journal of Family Psychology.

Grant reviewer, ESRC.

Advisory group member: The Family Routes Feasibility Study. Ecorys UK, the Rees Centre University of Oxford, Ipsos.

External advisor: University of Southampton, School of Psychology: UG and PG Certificate and a PG Diploma in Psychologically Informed Homelessness Practice (2023-2024).


Postgraduate research interests

I am interested in supervising research projects in the area of developmental psychology with a particular focus on the family as a context for understanding child and adolescent well-being.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information  regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application.

Primary supervisor

Jennifer Blackmore: Wales School for Social Care Research. School of Psychology, Cardiff University. Securing permanence for children placed for adoption: Explaining pre-placement and pre-Adoption Order breakdown, its consequences and the contrast with successful matching.

Second supervisor

Aimee Cummings: ESRC studentship. School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University. The mental health needs of care experienced young people.

Olivia Hughes: School of Psychology, Cardiff University. Mindfulness based online support for children and families affected by skin conditions.

Louisa Roberts: ESRC and HCRW studentship. Making the move: Understanding the transition of young people with social care needs from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to adult services

Catherine Sheehan: Children's social pretend play and relationship with emotion and social development.

Catherine Sheehan - People - Cardiff University

Lydia Tian: ESRC 1+3 studentship (2022-2026): Emotion Recognition in Looked After Children in Wales: An Investigation and Intervention Study

Current supervision

Olivia Hughes

Olivia Hughes

Research student