Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology
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Welcome to the Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology

Aims & Expertise

The centre aims to prevent physical, sexual and psychological violence in individuals, families and communities through research study and synthesis to inform professionals, policy makers and the general public.

It offers professional consultancy and advice, expert witness reports to legal proceedings and training on child care and protection following the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.


The Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology internationally promotes research and training into all areas of forensic and family psychology from both a victim and offender perspective and investigates the causes and consequences of family violence, child maltreatment and serious crime.


Research issues

Our focus is research and training into the development of children, the influence of families on children and mental health, the causes of criminal behaviour and the prevention of crime’.

We investigate early trauma, adverse experiences and emotional and social attachment processes in childhood in order to understand the development of mental health problems, personality disorder and criminal behaviour. This informs health and social care of children, families and communities.

The centre promotes evidence based practice for early intervention to prevent violence, abuse and neglect in families and communities.

What we are doing about ...

1. Child Abandonment and its Prevention across Europe

Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that every child has “the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents”. When a child is abandoned, this right is violated.

Infants and young children are those most at risk of being abandoned. This is concerning, as a child deprived of a stable upbringing in his or her early years of life may experience difficulties in terms of emotional and behavioural development. Centre staff are establishing the extent of child abandonment across the EU, its causes, its consequences, and prevention programmes that are currently in place.

This project grew out of previous EU Daphne-funded projects co-ordinated by Professor Kevin Browne, and explores the extent of child abandonment across the EU, its causes, its consequences, and prevention programmes that are currently in place. Little was known about the extent of institutional care of young children across Europe until 2003, when our previous EU Daphne-funded project showed this practice to exist in 31 European countries. A commonly cited reason for the institutionalisation of children was abandonment by parents. Further EU Daphne-funded projects relating to the de-institutionalisation of children have since been conducted and this information can also be found on the project website .

2. Sex Offender Risk Assessment

This study aims to establish the effectiveness of risk assessment tools in predicting sexual recidivism of adult male offenders. Sex offender risk assessment aids risk management within the criminal justice system. Some tools follow an actuarial approach and some adopt structured professional judgement.

There has been limited research evaluating and comparing the effectiveness of those tools and appraising the overall quality of the research on which they are based.

All 44 studies included in the systematic review demonstrated at least moderate predictive accuracy, with two reporting a large effect size (VRS-SO and SRA), although these two came under much less empirical scrutiny than the others and may have been the subject of developer bias in the research that is available. The VRS-SO was found to have the highest mean quality score, this again being limited by the number of studies and developer bias. The quality of the primary research is variable. More independent high quality research is needed, particularly on structured professional judgement incorporating dynamic risk factors.


3. A better way to prevent child abuse

New research at The University of Nottingham is calling for changes to a government scheme which engages community nurses in the prevention of child abuse and neglect in the home as part of a maternal and child health care program.

The study has found that despite being set up to help reduce the numbers of child abuse cases, the £10 million Family Nurse Partnership will only be able to tackle around 10% of families involved in child maltreatment.

By using different, less common risk factors to identify vulnerable children, the scheme could reach three times the number of abusive families using a similar number of health visitors.

The research was carried out by Professor Kevin Browne, and Vicki Jackson, they conclude that “the claims made about FNP to reduce child maltreatment in England have been over exaggerated. Careful consideration needs to be given to other prevention programmes that are tailored to the needs and vulnerabilities of the family”. “It is vital that families with a history of domestic violence are not ignored by health professionals as it regularly presents the highest relative risk for child maltreatment. It is also cited in 46% of child abuse and neglect referrals to police child protection units.”




Collaborations and links

  • At policy level, members are involved in multi-sector collaboration to prevent violence through prediction, assessment and treatment of victims and offenders.
  • Nationally, members have links with the Department of Health, Home Office, NOMS, Police Services, the Youth Justice Board, the Health Professions Council, the British Psychological Society (BPS), the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and the National Offender Treatment Association (NOTA).
  • At an international level, members advise the European Commission, UNICEF, World Health Organisation and International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.



Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology

The University of Nottingham

telephone: +44 (0) 115 823 2210