Conduct disorders, depression and personality disorders

We conduct research into the interplay between the developing child and the environment in contributing to vulnerability to mental health problems in childhood and in adult life.

Wirral Child Health and Development Study (WCHADS)

Current research into the origins of the conduct disorders is focusing on pregnancy and early infancy in the Wirral Child Health and Development Study (WCHADS). This is led by Professor Jonathan Hill, Dr Helen Sharp (University of Liverpool) and Professor Andrew Pickles (King's College London) and funded by the Medical Research Council.

Over 1000 first-time mothers and their partners were recruited at 20-weeks' gestation and followed up at 12 and 36 months. A stratified sample of approximately 300 is being followed with intensive measures at ages 5 weeks, 6, 12, 33, and 42 months. Key influences of interest include:

  • prenatal stress
  • sex differences
  • developmental associations consistent with epigenetic effects
  • in utero and early infancy genotype by environment interactions

Developmental outcomes studied for their potential role in mediation with psychopathology include cortisol reactivity, vagal withdrawal, and emotional reactivity.

Recent work in this area in collaboration with Professor Lynne Murray (University of Reading) showed that low interpersonal sensitivity (intentionality) in five year olds assessed using story stems was predicted by insecure attachment in infancy and mediated links with conduct problems. The study also revealed sex differences in the effects of stress, now being further explored in the WCHADS.

See also: Project profile: Wirral Child Health and Development Study

Other studies

  • Jonathan Hill is carrying out studies of borderline personality disorder in collaboration with Paul Pilkonis (University of Pittsburgh). These use his Revised Adult Personality Functioning Assessment to assess domain disorganisation in borderline patients. He is conducting an RCT of a novel psychosocial treatment (RESETTLE project) for personality disordered offenders leaving prison.
  • Jonathan Hill - working with academics and family therapists at the Tavistock Clinic - has developed an observational measure of family functioning, the Family Domains Interview, and clinical interventions based on the domains framework. The first evaluation of a family domains intervention started in 2011 (funded by NIHR Research for Patient Benefit).
  • Jonathan Hill and Dr Bernadka Dubicka head the North West site in the IMPACT study, funded by HTA, which is evaluating CBT and short-term Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in the treatment of adolescent depression.
  • Studies of developmental consequences of cleft lip and palate (Jonathan Hill and Lynne Murray).
  • Clinician-parent processes in childhood leukaemia have recently been explored by Jonathan Hill in a qualitative study led by Dr Bridget Young (University of Liverpool), and in collaboration with Professor Peter Salmon (University of Liverpool) and Professor Tim Eden (University of Manchester).

Conduct disorders, depression and personality disorders: members

Name Job title Email address
Professor Jonathan Hill Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry