Professor, Deputy Director, Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland

Professor Karen Thorpe is Group Leader at the Institute for Social Science Research at The University of Queensland. She completed her PhD in Developmental Psychology as a Commonwealth Scholar at the University of Bristol in 1988. She is currently Deputy Director at the Institute for Social Science Research and group leader in Developmental Science. Her research income exceeds $16 million including funds from USA (NIH), UK (MRC, Mental Health Foundation, NHS-R&D) and Australia (CAT 1 -ARC, NHMRC, philanthropy, CAT 2 Government and NGO). She has served on the ARC College of Experts and the ARC centre of Excellence selection Committees.

Karen’s research program is in developmental science with particular interest in the effects of early childhood parental and non-parental care experiences on developmental trajectories across the lifespan. Her scholastic leadership is not only evidenced in her external grant success and high quality publications, but also translation of research outcomes into social, educational and health policy. She has authored a book on later motherhood and published 120 peer reviewed papers. She has made a significant contribution to developmental science through her leadership as Principal Psychologist in the large epidemiological study of development and well-being (ALSPAC, Inst. Child Health, Bristol), the use of twin design studies to establish environmental mechanisms in language development (Institute of Psychiatry, London) and large scale longitudinal studies of early parenting and educational environments (Inst. Child Health, Bristol, QUT/University of Melbourne).
Karen has a strong commitment to research translation. Since 2005 she has authored 14 reports for State and Federal Government and non-government organisations. Most recently she has been conducting studies of the Early Years workforce and of sleep rest practices in ECEC settings. Her team has translated their research on sleep in child care settings into a professional development program for educators and quality assessors and parents based on this work funded by Department of Education. Recent government contracts include The National Evaluation of the Child and Youth Mental Health Strategy (DoH) and The Building Capacity for Australian Parents Initiative (DSS).
In 2013 Karen was named among Australia’s 100 Women of Influence for translation of her work into public policy.

Experience

  • 2018–present
    Deputy Director, Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland
  • 2016–present
    Professor, Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland
  • 2015–2016
    Professor, Centre for Children's Health Research, QUT
  • 2008–2015
    Professor, Queensland University of Technology, School of Psychology and Counselling
  • 2004–2008
    Professor, Queensland University of Technology, School of Early Childhood
  • 2002–2004
    Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology, School of Early Childhood
  • 1999–2001
    Senior Lecturer, University of West of England
  • 1994–1999
    Honorary Research fellow, University of London, Institute of Psychiatry
  • 1989–1999
    Research Fellow, University of Bristol

Education

  • 1995 
    Open University, Grad. Diploma of Psychology
  • 1989 
    University of Bristol, Doctor of Philosophy (Developmental Psychology)
  • 1985 
    University of London, Master of Arts (Psychology of Children with Special Needs)
  • 1982 
    University of Tasmania, Bachelor of Education (Hons. 1)

Grants and Contracts

  • 2018
    Smith,S., Ferris,J., Thorpe,K. Salom,C, Child and Youth Mental Health Program Evaluation
    Role:
    CIC
    Funding Source:
    Commonwealth Department of Health
  • 2017
    Staton S, Thorpe K, Irvine S, Smith S & Pattinson C. (2017) Choosing rest: Finding effective alternatives to mandated rest-times in ECEC services. Queensland Department of Education, Education Horizon
    Role:
    CIB
    Funding Source:
    Qld Dept of Education
  • 2017
    Thorpe K, O’Flaherty M, Povey J, Staton S, Alati R, Betts, Baxter J, Perales P & Smith SS. (2018) Evaluation of the Building Capacity in Australian Parents (BCAP) Trial and the National Community Awareness Raising (NCAR) Strategy. Department of Social Services
    Role:
    CIA
    Funding Source:
    Commonwealth Department of Social Services
  • 2017
    Irvine,S, Thorpe K, Lunn,J, McBean,L. (2017-2018) Professionalism, paperwork and pedagogy: Identifying leadership strategies that enable the professional work of educators in long day care. Education Horizon Grant, DET, Queensland
    Role:
    CIB
    Funding Source:
    Qld Dept of Education
  • 2016
    Eivers, A., Miller, M., and Thorpe, K. (2016) Queensland Government: Education Horizon Grant. The impacts of an Indigenous Summer School Program on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's transition to school
    Role:
    CIC
    Funding Source:
    Qld Dept of Education
  • 2016
    Thorpe, K., Beatton, T., Kidd, M., and Siraj, I. (2016) Queensland Government: Education Horizon Grant. Understanding educational outcomes of Queensland's investment in early education programs
    Role:
    CIA
    Funding Source:
    Qld Dept of Education
  • 2015
    Staton, S., Thorpe, K., Smith, S., Irvine, S., and Pattinson, C. (2015-2017) Sleep Practices in Early Childhood: Translation for parent groups, Department of Education, Queensland Government
    Role:
    CIB
    Funding Source:
    Qld Dept of Education
  • 2014
    Growing a professional early childhood workforce to improve developmental and educational outcomes in early childhood
    Role:
    CIA
    Funding Source:
    ARC Linkage
  • 2012
    Promoting protective feeding practices to prevent childhood obesity: follow up of a successful obesity prevention program commencing in infancy
    Role:
    CID
    Funding Source:
    NHMRC Project
  • 2012
    Optimising sleep health for Australian children: Understanding the effects of daytime sleep periods in childcare services
    Role:
    CIA
    Funding Source:
    Financial Markets Foundation for Children
  • 2011
    Interacting with knowledge, interacting with people: Web searching in early childhood
    Role:
    CIB
    Funding Source:
    ARC Discovery
  • 2009
    Assessing early education and care in Australian communities
    Role:
    CIB
    Funding Source:
    ARC Linkage
  • 2005
    Compromised or competent: A longitudinal study of twin children's social competencies, friendships and behavioural adjustment
    Role:
    CIA
    Funding Source:
    ARC Discovery
  • 2004
    A responsive evaluation of the Child Health Line
    Role:
    CIB
    Funding Source:
    Royal Children's Hospital Foundation
  • 2003
    Parent attitudes and practices: settling infants under 12 weeks of age
    Role:
    CIB
    Funding Source:
    Royal Children's Hospital Foundation
  • 1996
    Twins as a natural experiment to study language delay: continuation study
    Role:
    CIB
    Funding Source:
    National Health Service UK, Research and Development
  • 1995
    Effects of drinking and nursing on child development: an epidemiological study
    Role:
    CIC
    Funding Source:
    NIAAA, USA
  • 1993
    The effects of early adverse events in the lives of parents on their performance as parents and partners
    Role:
    CIB
    Funding Source:
    MRC, UK
  • 1992
    Twins as a natural experiment to assess the causes of language delay
    Role:
    CIC
    Funding Source:
    Mental Health Foundation UK
  • 1991
    Health care practices and prevalence of depression following miscarriage
    Role:
    CIB
    Funding Source:
    Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust

Professional Memberships

  • Society for Research in Child Development

Research Areas

  • Developmental Psychology And Ageing (170102)
  • Early Childhood Education (Excl. Maori) (130102)

Honours

2013 Australian Financial Review/Westpac 100 Women of Influence