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Professor Debbie Watson




Debbie took up her position as Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies at the School in August 2007. She is currently a Reader in Childhood Studies and Head of the Centre for Children and Families Research. She takes up a Professorial position in Child and Family Welfare from September 2019.

Debbie is an experienced teacher in schools and in Higher Education. In particular, her interests have been in the sociology of childhood and in the health and wellbeing of children and young people. She is interested in co-productive research methods, creative and arts based research methods with children and publically engaged approaches to research. Much of her research and writing has been related to childhood identities and diversity and she has expertise in areas of childhood disability, children in the MENA region and in particular with children in care and adopted children.

Recent projects include working with the children's charity Coram on their Post-Adoption Support Services (PASS) project where she researched adopted children's and adopters' perspectives on life storybooks as part of the child's life story work. This project is linked to an AHRC REACT 'Play Sandbox' project that she led with a creative partner (Chloe Meineck) to develop a technologically enhanced keepsake box (called 'trove') for children in care to attach stories to their precious birth objects and keep their precious mementoes secure. Follow on AHRC funding has allowed this to be further co-designed with social workers, adopters, foster carers, children in care and adopted children with an integral multi-media app being part of the current memory prototype. This current work has focused on children's narrative abilities and the use of their loved material objects in enabling them to participate in life story work in playful ways that allow some agency an control over the story of their life. She is currently running a project to co-develop training with adoption and foster care providers to assist adults in their direct work with children around their life story questions: 'Children's Difficult Conversations'.

Debbie was the academic lead on one of the ESRC funded Productive Margins projects called 'Life Chances: Low-income families in Modern Urban Settings- poverty, austerity and participatory resistance'. This was a co-produced project working with two grassroots community organisations supporting families in poverty in Bristol and Cardiff. This resulted in innovative artistic outputs including a co-authored sociological fictional novel about lives on low-income and the roll out of the Universal Credit system which is available on Amazon.

Debbie is also involved in a network of activity with grassroots organisations called the Child Friendly City Network which aims to improve the situation for children in Bristol and has contributed to the development of the Children's Charter in Bristol. Her work with civil society organisations is ongoing and includes projects with children's centres exploring the impact of Somali parent volunteers on cultural awareness in primary schools and developing pre-school children's sense of belonging in the city. She is also involved in the development of Bristol Play Strategy and in strategic work to address child food poverty in the city.