Dr Siwan Roberts

Contact info


Contact Info



Adversity, Synchrony and the Parent-Child Relationship: Implications for mental health and clinical practice

Stemming from my experience as a clinical psychologist, I am interested in relational health for children and in developing trauma-informed preventative and early intervention work in clinical practice. 

My PhD focuses on statistical relationships between intergenerational childhood adversity, parent-child attunement and mental health. Specifically, are 'parent-child attunement', 'neural synchrony' and 'child empathy' mechanisms important in the aetiology of children's mental health? Do their optimal development mitigate the effects of adverse experiences? The work will consist of two empirical parts, as follows:

1. Using factor analysis and path analysis, I will be testing predicted relationships between a combination of existing and newly generated variables from the Cardiff Child Development Study longitudinal dataset. I am asking; 1.) whether parents' attunement to their infant (measured by aspects of maternal sensitivity and intersubjectivity) mediates the relationships between parents' history of adversity and later child mental health difficulties (externalising and internalising), and 2.) whether child's empathy at age 7 years mediates the relationship between children's adversity (including abuse and household dysfunction) and their mental health.

2. Informed by the results of Part 1, I will design and conduct a new study using Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to test whether parent-child synchrony at the neural level mediates the relationship between parents' history of adversity and child outcomes.  I may compare two groups of parent-child pairs (high vs. low parental adversity) on synchrony between parent-child versus stranger-child during competitive and co-operative tasks.

Finally, I will discuss the clinical implications of the results. In particular, which therapeutic interventions at the early intervention stage and/or which universal classroom programmes target the identified mechanisms (e.g. attunement, empathy)? Does their use contribute to possible ways of preventing the development of mental health difficulties in children?




Research areas and keywords


  • BF Psychology

Education / academic qualifications

  • 2012 - Other , Carer-child relationships and externalising behaviour in childhood , Bangor University
  • BSc , The Effect of Language on a Child’s Understanding of Number: Is “One-ten-one” the same as eleven?
  • MPhil , The early development of mind-understanding: Evidence from parental speech and joint attention behaviour in infancy
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