Winnicott Research Unit

The WRU was established in 1989 in Cambridge under the directorship of Lynne Murray and Peter Cooper. It moved with Lynne and Peter to Reading in 1996, where it currently runs, with Cathy Creswell as the Deputy Director. The research of the Unit is focussed on the interplay between environmental and biological factors in the course of child development. The Unit has made particular use of prospective longitudinal research, notably in relation to the development of offspring of mothers with postnatal depression (PND) and with anxiety disorders, as well as of those living in conditions of extreme socio-economic adversity. The Unit has also studied the development of children with cleft lip/palate (CLP). For each of these populations the Unit has undertaken the development and evaluation of psycho-social interventions, both as a means of elucidating causal processes, and to establish evidence-based interventions for improving child developmental outcome. Much of the Unit's current work takes place within a clinical facility it runs in collaboration with the local NHS Trust, the Berkshire Child Anxiety Clinic. The work of the Unit is currently supported by research grants and studentships from the MRC, the ESRC, the Wellcome Trust, Oxford University, the NIHR, and the Felix Foundation.

The Unit's current research projects are as follows:

Postnatal depression

  • Adult socio-emotional and cognitive outcome in offspring of mothers with PND
  • RCT of a video-feedback intervention to improve child developmental outcome in the context of chronic PND

Child anxiety disorder

  • Longitudinal research: Longitudinal study of the impact of social phobia and/or GAD on child development; impact of transition to secondary school
  • Phenomenology/outcome/experimental research: Investigation of the impact of cognitive, physiological, family, and wider social factors on the clinical presentation and response to treatment of child and adolescent anxiety disorders
  • Treatment research: Several RCTs concerned with various ways of delivering CBT to clinic and primary care based children and adolescents with anxiety disorders (e.g. guided self-help; via the internet; with a mother-child relationship therapeutic component;); exploratory treatment research (e.g. Cognitive Bias Modification)

Children with cleft-lip and palate

  • Naturalistic observational study of the early development of the mother-infant relationship in the context of CLP
  • RCT of a video-feedback intervention to improve mother-infant interactions in the context of CLP

    Chid development in South Africa

    • A follow up at secondary school of children in an impoverished South African community whose mothers had received a mother-infant intervention
    • An RCT of training indigent mothers in South Africa in book-sharing to improve infant cognitive development

    Download our Mother-Infant Intervention Programme for the Khayelitsha Treatment Trial


  • Our research team - Our recent publications

    Academic staff

    Peter Cooper
    Professor. Office: 237; Tel: 6617; Email: p.j.cooper@reading.ac.uk
    Peter Cooper and Lynne Murray are currently engaged in four main lines of research. First, in collaboration with Cathy Creswell, they are working on the development and treatment of child anxiety disorders, principally by means of a longitudinal study and randomised controlled trials. Second, in collaboration with colleagues in Oxford, they are running a randomised controlled trial of an intervention for chronic postpartum depression. Third, also with colleagues in Oxford, they have developed an intervention they are currently evaluating for families with infants with cleft lip/palate. Finally, in collaboration with colleagues in South Africa, they are developing and evaluating interventions for improving child cognitive and socio-emotional development in the developing world.
    Cathy Creswell
    Professor. Office: 241; Tel: 6798; Email: c.creswell@reading.ac.uk
    Cathy Creswell conducts research in to the development and treatment of childhood anxiety disorders, working in collaboration with the Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust CAMHS Anxiety and Depression Pathway where she is an Hon Consultant Clinical Psychologist. Her recent and ongoing work is funded by the MRC, EME, NIHR and ESRC and employs prospective, experimental and treatment trial designs, commonly using observational methods. She has particular interests in the changing association between cognition and anxiety through development, and the role of parental responses in promoting positive child outcomes.
    Lynne Murray
    Professor. Office: 239; Tel: 6302; Email: lynne.murray@reading.ac.uk
    Lynne Murray and Peter Cooper are currently engaged in four main lines of research. First, in collaboration with Cathy Creswell, they are working on the development and treatment of child anxiety disorders, principally by means of a longitudinal study and randomised controlled trials. Second, in collaboration with colleagues in Oxford, they are running a randomised controlled trial of an intervention for chronic postpartum depression. Third, also with colleagues in Oxford, they have developed an intervention they are currently evaluating for families with infants with cleft lip/palate. Finally, in collaboration with colleagues in South Africa, they are developing and evaluating interventions for improving child cognitive and socio-emotional development in the developing world.

Contact us:

  • Email:
    pcls@reading.ac.uk
  • Tel:
    +44 (0)118 378 8523
  • Fax:
    +44 (0)118 378 6715
  • SatNav postcode:
    RG6 7BE

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