KESS2 East PhD in Medicine: Supporting fathers in the antenatal period and early childhood years

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    Cardiff University
    United Kingdom
    Professions and applied sciences


An exciting opportunity is now available to study how fathers are currently supported in their parenting role, and to make improvements that will benefit children and families in the future.

The PhD studentship will be based at the Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University, in collaboration with and supported by Public Health Wales (PHW). The studentship is also linked to the DECIPHer Centre at Cardiff University.

It is widely recognized that the family environment during early childhood is critical for the long-term health and economic well-being of children. Parental wellbeing and effective parenting are critical in creating and sustaining a positive family environment. For example, in Wales the First 1000 Days Collaboration aims to strengthen the support available to families in the early years and to use research evidence about what impacts on child health outcomes to develop its ongoing strategy.

While most attention has been focused upon mothers, there is an increasing shift to recognise and address the role and needs of fathers. Fathers have a key role to play but their level of engagement in available support services is low and there are important gaps in our understanding of why this is.

This PhD will explore the support needs of fathers during the antenatal and early years period. It will seek to understand key challenges and stressors for fathers, how support services such as midwifery and parenting services meet fathers’ needs, identify formal and informal support that fathers currently access and how they work, and explore ways in which parenting support can be changed to better address fathers’ need.

Key stages in the research will first include a systematic review of literature on fathers’ support needs in the antenatal and early years period. This will examine fathers’ experiences of support, barriers, and initiatives to improve support including for fathers across different socio-economic backgrounds. Second a substantial qualitative study involving in-depth interviews with initially 40 fathers and 20 healthcare professionals will explore both fathers’ and professional experiences of support receipt and provision.

Accessing fathers for interview, in particular from socio-economically deprived communities and exploring the complex nature of their support needs, experiences and preferences will represent both a key challenge and opportunity.

The supervisory team comprises methodologists and clinicians with considerable experience in research with families, in the use of qualitative methods and of the evaluation complex healthcare service interventions. In addition to being part of a vibrant research centre at Cardiff University the successful student will have the opportunity to spend time at the partner organisation – Public Health Wales. Project supervisors have extensive links to practitioners and community organisations which will both support student experience and research planning. Such links increase the likelihood that the research will have impact support provision to fathers and families in Wales.

What is funded

Tuition fee support         Full UK/EU tuition fees

Maintenance stipend     Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum


3 years


Residency: Applicants for these awards must have a home or work address in the relevant area* of Wales (East or West) at the time of their application for funding and enrolment.

Academic criteria: Applicants for research PhDs are expected to have one or both of the following:

  • a first degree, normally with class 2:1 or equivalent in a relevant subject;
  • a relevant master's degree qualification or equivalent.

Applicants must:

  • have the right to work in the UK on completion of the scholarship
  • be classified as a ‘home’ or ‘EU’ student
  • satisfy the respective admissions criteria.

It is a condition of eligibility for KESS2 funding that you have not applied for, nor are intending to apply for, a doctoral or research master's loan. Please read clause (3) (m) of The Education (Postgraduate Doctoral Degree Loans) (Wales) Regulations 2018 for more information.

East Wales region is comprised of seven local authorities: Cardiff, Flintshire, Monmouthshire, Newport, Powys, Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham.


The responsibility for the funding offers published on this website, including the funding description, lies entirely with the publishing institutions. The application is handled uniquely by the employer, who is also fully responsible for the recruitment and selection processes.