Sara Tofiq (2018 Cohort)

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About me:  I grew up in London and was always fascinated by the endless diversity that the city offers, meeting people from an array of interesting backgrounds and gaining insight into different perspectives. I studied Psychology at UCL for my bachelors and this is where I first learnt about the extensive effect of the environment on our lives. Intrigued by my studies, I wanted to explore this concept further by investigating the effects of deprivation and socio-economic status on an individual’s life. After graduating, I undertook a research assistant position based at a couples therapy practice, and was given the opportunity to conduct some analyses of my own. I chose to explore the impact of deprivation on a parenting intervention aiming to improve parenting styles for separated couples that were co-parenting. The results were interesting as they suggested that separated parents from lower income backgrounds improved on parenting styles slower in comparison to parents from higher income backgrounds.

Learning of this inequality, I became interested in conducting research on spells of deprivation and how this can impact a child’s development emotionally, cognitively and physically. I wanted to include green spaces in my study and how a child’s interaction with such spaces can see far-stretched effects on their weight, their cognitive functioning levels and also their socio-behavioural outcomes. Using data from the Millenium Cohort Study, I will obtain measures such as Body Mass Index (BMI), IQ and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), to employ a regression model and examine the relationship between green spaces and child development. Additionally, there is an element of parental mental health which I will be investigating, to see whether parents’ mental health will interfere with a child’s interaction with green spaces and in turn their development. Further, I will be conducting some interviews to feed into a qualitative analyses, exploring the question of why children are using green spaces or why they are not using these spaces.

The difference my research will make:  The difference I’m hoping to make through my PhD is a better understanding of how children interact with urban parks and how Given the many benefits of green spaces, it is motivating to plan how our research will drive impact in society, particularly by encouraging more parents and children to utilise green spaces earlier on in a child’s life trajectory.

Supervisors: Professor Yvonne Kelly, Professor Nick Tyler, Dr Anne Peasey and Dr Rebecca Lacey

Pathway: Life Course and Social Epidemiology

Location: UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare

Email: sara.tofiq.14@ucl.ac.uk