Intimate and family relationships

The family environment - including the context set by parents - is paramount in shaping the development, health and wellbeing of children.  Intimate relationships provide mutual support for physical and emotional health but can also be a source of poor mental health, aggression and violence.

We seek to understand relational mechanisms within intimate and family relationships, to understand how these might be strengthened to benefit health.

We seek to intervene as well as describe. Many of our projects involve designing, testing and evaluating interventions, or working to influence policy. We seek to improve relational wellbeing and to harness relational mechanisms to improve other aspects of health.

Current projects

Population sexual health

The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes & Lifestyles (Natsal) logo

We work with UCL and LSHTM on The British National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal). Natsal are probability-sample bio-behavioural surveys, representative of the British population. They have been run every decade since 1990. The survey is a collaboration between University of Glasgow, LSHTM and UCL. For the fourth Natsal survey, our team is leading on work to conceptualise and measure sexual wellbeing. By this we mean ‘how we’re doing sexually’, including things like safety, self-esteem, comfort and resilience. You can read our manifesto for sexual wellbeing.

Follow the Natsal survey on Twitter.

Natsal COVID Study logo

With UCL we co-lead the Natsal-COVID study, a national web panel survey (6,500 participants) of the impact of COVID-19 on sexual behavior and relationships, and Sexual and Reproductive Health service use. Two survey waves capture the first four months after the first UK lockdown began (March, 2020) and one year later (March 2021). Contact Kirstin Mitchell for more details.

CONUNDRUM logo Project Conundrum brings together the views of young people and key stakeholder to understand the multi-level and complex factors shaping young people’s use and non-use of condoms and contraception. It was established in response to concerns about declining use of free condoms and long acting contraceptives among Scottish youth. We are working with three NHS health boards (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Lothian) and Scottish Government to co-produce recommendations for future sexual health policy and service provision. Twitter updates can be found on #ProjectCONUNDRUM.
The Good Measure project logo The Good Measure project bring to get the views of young people, parents, and professionals in the field of mental and sexual health to build stronger methodological foundations on the mechanistic links between adolescent gender and sexual dimensions of mental health and wellbeing. The Good Measure team is composed of researchers from Indiana University, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Birmingham, University of London, and University of New Brunswick.

Gender-based violence in school

Equally Safe at School logo Equally Safe at School (ESAS) tackles gender-based violence in secondary schools. We have worked with Rape Crisis to co-produce and pilot the intervention. We are now evaluating the roll-out of Equally Safe in schools across Scotland. 

Parenting in East Africa

With colleagues in Oxford University we are conducting a systematic review of parenting programmes to prevent child maltreatment and harsh parenting in low and middle income countries. In Tanzania we have conducted a randomised controlled trial to compare how a parenting programme. Our RCT of Skilful Parenting (agricultural development programme, parenting programme and a combination of both) found that when combined the two programmes lead to modest reductions in child maltreatment, and that by delivering parenting training through agricultural programmes one can engage a high proportion of fathers.

With Ugandan colleagues at Makerere University we have been developing and evaluating a 16 session community-based parenting programme for the early prevention of gender based violence; Parenting for Respectability.

PhD students

Raquel Bosó Pérez - young people’s sexual wellbeing

George Burrows - sexual function and sexual wellbeing in trans populations

Elizabeth Inyang - systems thinking to understand the issue of FGM/C in Scotland

Jennifer Littlejohn – nuances of sexual consent across the lifecourse


MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit logo 800 wide