Explore our research

Families, Children and Life Transitions

We are committed to working collaboratively to improve the lives of children and families and enhancing family life to ensure that children have the best possible chances in life, whatever their health care needs.

Families, Children and Life Transitions


Our research activity focuses on the lives of children, parents and families – particularly those whose lives are disrupted by illness, disability or disadvantage. Our aim is to undertake research that makes a difference to families and children. We aim to generate evidence which can be translated into changes in practice and which shapes policy.

Research domains

Our research spans four core and synergistic domains: children’s pain; parenting; illness, complex health care needs and disability; and children’s critical care nursing.

Children’s Pain

Our focus is on pain and symptom assessment and management. Our scope encompasses palliative care, children with neurological and learning impairment and acute pain management, as well as the stories that children tell of their pain experiences. Our aim is to understand and improve the assessment of children’s pain by health care and other professionals and to promote parental confidence in assessing their child’s pain.


We work towards promoting parenting and parenting self-efficacy through the use of family support interventions delivered in the home and community settings. This work aims to develop an understanding of how parenting support programmes work and the development of the service systems which can provide sufficiently seamless health and social care services relevant to different parent and family situations.

Illness, complex health care needs and disability

Our work focuses on exploring and enhancing service delivery through working with children, their families and those who work with them in order to identify how their specific needs can be met and their resilience promoted.

Children’s Critical Care Nursing

Our focus is on improving nursing care delivery, preventing deterioration and optimising outcomes of the critically ill and deteriorating child in hospital.

Networks and contacts

We have established networks and contacts throughout our home region, nationally and internationally; we know our ‘home patch’ and we are well placed to link into and influence practice, research and ideas across the world. Our research reflects a commitment to extensive collaboration with families, practice based experts, voluntary groups and researchers from different disciplinary and academic backgrounds.

Challenging and methodologically innovative work

Our research is challenging and methodologically innovative, ranging from tool development and validation to realistic evaluation, narrative, participatory, arts-based and appreciative approaches. Our work is relevant to practice across a range of contexts. It has excellent fit with the key drivers and targets for promoting health, caring for and supporting families/children and facilitating life transitions.

Our students: PhDs, MPhils and MScs

Our postgraduate research degree students experience high quality team supervision that is tailored to meet their individual needs throughout their studies. Students enhance their transferable skills and publish papers en route to successful completion of their target awards. Students studying within the theme find the atmosphere to be “collegiate”, “developmental”, “supportive” and “stretching”.

To find out more about Families, Children and Life Transitions research, contact Dr Karen Whittaker
Tel: +44 (0) 1772 893786 Email:



Dissemination and knowledge translation

We disseminate the knowledge and evidence we produce not only to fellow professionals through the usual established methods (e.g. journal and conference papers) but also to children and families and those who work with them (e.g. through websites). Our aim is to ensure that our findings reach the people who could most benefit from it. We work hard to ensure that our research contributes to policy documents, best practice guidance and via other areas of influence.

Children’s Pain

Our most significant impact is the on-going refinement and implementation of the Paediatric Pain Profile (PPP). This tool is used by parents and health professionals to assess pain in children who have severe neurological and learning impairments and who are unable to communicate their pain through speech. This tool is used in many practice settings nationally and internationally (e.g., Germany, Australia, USA, Canada) and it has been translated into different languages including Urdu, Punjabi and Brazilian Portuguese. Our reputation for work on children’s pain has gained external recognition (e.g, through an RCN Fellowship).

Illness, complex health care needs and disability

We have a long-established track record of service-user engagement with children and families. Our methodological expertise (for example, arts-based approaches to researching with children and families) means that we have been selected to undertake research and consultancy work for the Department of Health. Examples of our impact are the number of invitations we have received to evaluate services of national charities providing care to children and families as well as a region wide evaluation of services for children with palliative care needs. In addition our work underpinned the Department of Health document ‘NHS at Home: Children’s Community Nursing Services’.


Our impact in this area is evident through the strength of our partnerships with Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and also through the way that findings from our studies have had influence on service organisation and on-going programme evaluation of the Early Start Home Visiting programme within Blackburn with Darwen. We have demonstrated impact through early intervention health visiting studies which provided fresh insights in whole system working for accident prevention and family support. Our Knowledge Transfer Partnership project has resulted in developing a model for home accident prevention where learning was transferred from a child and family service to development of comprehensive fall prevention programme for older people.

Children's Critical Care Nursing

Our research on the deterioration of children in hospital wards in 2004-2005 resulted in the implementation of a Paediatric Early Warning (PEW) tool within Alder Hey Children's Hospital. This has led to an active research programme focusing on paediatric early warning tools. This has resulted in educational developments, e.g., the multi-professional RESPOND programme that focuses on implementing better practice within the clinical setting. We are collaborating in national PEW developments and have been key to extending the use of the PEW tool across Europe through the ESPNiC organisation's nurse science group.

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