Lifespan Research Group - Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies

The Lifespan Research Group, led by Professor Antonia Bifulco, investigates social and psychological factors influencing mental health. It takes a lifespan approach, examining factors from childhood through to older age, in community-based samples ranging in age from 16 to 75. The research group emerged in 1999 from the Socio-medical Research Centre, formerly directed by Professor George Brown. It has been located at 11, Bedford Square from 1984 until 2011. Lifespan Research Group is now part of the Centre of Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS), at Middlesex University London.

The team is involved in both applied and academic research, and the interface between the two. It seeks to investigate the aetiology of psychological disorders as well as influencing health and social care practice in terms of increasing its evidence-based orientation. One means of bridging the two is in terms of adapting researchassessment methods for practice contexts.


Applied Research

The Lifespan Research Group has been involved in the WestFocus consortium of seven universities to the West of London to create a knowledge exchange with the local communities. This was a HEIF2 and HEIF3 funded enterprise and the research group were involved in the Health and Social Inclusion subnetworks.

Lifespan is currently active in undertaking research with practitioners in both health and social care. These activities are funded from 'third stream' sources such as voluntary agencies, local authorities and primary care. They include:

  • Evaluations of services for children and adapting research interview methods for social work assessments (Surrey Children's Services, Portsmouth Fostering Team, St. Christopher's Fellowship).

  • Increasing research capacity in primary care (Wandsworth PCT Research Centre -BRG)

  • Supervising action research for social care practitioners (Greenwich and Wandsworth Social Services).

  • Adapting research interview methods for social work assessments (Parents for Children).


Academic Research

The team is currently analysing and publishing a large Medical Research Council funded data set examining social factors in the aetiology of depression, anxiety and substance abuse. This comprises family studies examining both intergenerational (mothers and daughters/sons) as well as intra-generational (sibling) pairs in transmission of risk in families. It uses both prospective and retrospective designs to examine life histories in these families.

Active collaborations with clinical psychology and psychiatry research teams in Europe (Paris, Porto, Florence, Belgium, Italy) and Asia (Japan and Korea) are seeking to examine vulnerability for depression cross-culturally and adapting and translating measures in these contexts.


Lifespan Collection

Data collected from 10 years of MRC programme funding with over 500 families in London, is currently in the process of being preserved and archived. Funding is being sought to digitalise the few thousand audio-tapes in the Collection and to the many rated schedules collected during the programme. The Collection includes the audio-taped life history interviews for three generations of London families as well as a computerised data set of thousands of quantitative variables measured around psychosocial risks and lifetime clinical disorder.

Lifespan Research Group has gained funding from JISC (Capital Programme for Repositories Start-up) to support the development, preservation and future accessibility of its valuable collection of life histories. This will provide the foundations for exploring the requirements for an information environment for research data collections in the frame of the College-wide Digital Object Repository (DOR). JISC supports UK further & higher education and research by providing leadership in the use of Information and Communications Technology in support of learning, teaching, research and administration. JISC receives funding from all the UK further and higher education funding councils.

Interview Measurement

Interview measures designed by the team to assess psychosocial vulnerability for depression are used extensively in research and increasingly by practitioners. Such measures combine both qualitative and quantitative elements to provide narrative accounts of experience, amenable to statistical analysis.



is available from the team in:


Lifespan publications 2001-9

Lifespan funded projects s

Lifespan final report s



Contact us

Prof Antonia Bifulco
Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS)
Middlesex University London
Dept of Psychology
The Burroughs
London NW4 4BT



Research Staff

  • Antonia Bifulco
  • Catherine Jacobs
  • Yael Ilan-Clarke
  • Amanda Bunn


Associated Researchers

  • Patricia Moran
  • Geraldine Thomas
  • Adina Rusu
  • Sue Skrobanski
  • Leonie Hannan
  • Ananay Aguilar
  • Laura Brazier

Read our latest Newsletter



Five hundred people recall their life story… all kept  in one collection


Memories of childhood and of adult life: adversity, support relationships ...

Reports of coping style, self esteem,
relating styles,
psychological disorders ...