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Irena Tetkovic

PhD student

Children, young people & families

University of Cambridge

Project title

The role of social relationships in families with mental health conditions

Project summary

Family mental health problems often impact the family dynamic significantly, with siblings' mental health conditions being linked to poorer psychological functioning in typically developing children. The level of social support provided by parents is often reduced, which can be linked to greater experience of stress in children and decreased feelings of connectedness in child-parent relationships. This project aims to investigate the extent to which social relationships impact children’s mental health when they are exposed to sibling mental health conditions, and to use this information for the development of a statistical and a theoretical model. Part 1 of this project will examine the current literature on this topic through a systematic review. Part 2 of this project will investigate longitudinal data from a nationally representative dataset in England study to understand how exposure to sibling mental health conditions influences mental health outcomes, and to identify possible risk and protective factors. Finally, Part 3 of this project will use qualitative methods to interview children and young people with lived experience of sibling mental health conditions to gain deeper insight into the area.

Research interests

Children, young people & families

Irena's Q&A

  • What has been your career journey so far?

    I have a background in psychology, having studied at UCL and Oxford. I then went back to UCL for a research assistantship in psychiatry, followed by a move to Cambridge for my PhD. I enjoyed working in different lab groups across universities and learning from several supervisors, gaining insight into various areas of research.

  • Why did you choose to do a PhD in public health research?

    I wanted to take the opportunity to focus on a project that I felt passionate about for an extended period of time, so as to learn the skills necessary to continue with research in the future.

  • What is your research focused on?

    My research focuses on mental health in the family, specifically in siblings.

  • Why is it important?

    Children and young people with mental health conditions in their families are often impacted by this condition, however seldom receive as much support as they would need. I want to highlight this issue through my PhD and offer solutions to this problem.

  • What do you like about being a part of the NIHR School for Public Health Research?

    I value the community created by the NIHR School for Public Health Research enabling me to connect with and learn from researchers in my field and beyond.

  • What skills have you learnt and/or are hoping to learn as part of your PhD?

    Whilst my PhD started with a deep dive into systematic review to gain a better overview of my field, I anticipate polishing my statistical and qualitative skills in due course. Throughout my PhD I hope to learn how to address societal challenges through research to improve public health.

  • What do you hope to do after completing your PhD?

    I would like to continue learning more about mental health in children and young people by completing a doctorate in clinical psychology. I hope to combine my knowledge in research and in more applied therapeutic approaches, to improve treatment provision for children and young people.

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