Portrait of Professor David Shemmings

Professor David Shemmings

Emeritus Professor of Child Protection Research


Professor Shemmings is the author of more than 60 articles, books and chapters on relationally-based social work theory, research and practice. In 2010, he co-authored a government-funded, C4EO Knowledge Review on 'Working with Highly Resistant Families'

Late in 2017, David jointly edited, with Professor Michael Little, two Special Editions of the Journal of Children’s Services on the Future of Child Protection Social Work. He wrote an article in the second edition entitled ‘Future-proofing Child Protection Social Work’. In 2019, with Yvonne, he had two book chapters published - ‘Contemporary attachment theory: how can it inform social workers?’ in the Routledge Handbook of Social Work. (ed. Payne, M). London: Routledge) and 'Emotional and Behavioural Development: The Importance of Attachment' in The Child’s World, (eds. Howarth, J. & Platt, D.) London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. (This is a rewrite of one of their best-selling titles). In May 2019 the fifth edition of 'Child Abuse: An Evidence Base for Confident Practice' was published by the Open University/MacGraw-Hill which he wrote with Dr David Wilkins - one of David's former PhD students and Claire Pascoe - one of the Centre's MA in Advanced Child Protection graduates.

Currently, Professor Shemmings leads the Advanced Child Protection stream within the West London Alliance Post-qualifying Initiative (involving eight London boroughs) and directs the Attachment and Relationship-based Practice training in 40 child protection organisations across the UK and Europe.  

He is also visiting Professor of Child Protection Research at Royal Holloway College, University of London.

Professor Shemmings qualified as a teacher in 1974 at the University of Sussex and worked with traumatised children for a number of years before becoming a Senior Policy Adviser in services to children and families to the Director of Social Services in Essex, and then Deputy Director of Social Services in Southend. He then spent 17 years lecturing at the University of East Anglia before becoming Professor of Social Work Research at Middlesex University in 2005. He joined the University of Kent as Professor of Social Work in 2007. He was also Deputy Head of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research from 2007-2010. 

Professor Shemmings has an advanced post-graduate qualification from Cambridge Institute of Education and a Master’s degree and PhD from the University of East Anglia.  He was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2014 for 'Services to Child Protection'.  

Research interests

Professor Shemmings has been working with managers, supervisors and practitioners to ‘deepen and strengthen’ knowledge of attachment theory and research in child protection through the Attachment and Relationship-based Practice training.

He was one of three researchers in a DH-sponsored study of 220 family members' involvement in child protection processes, the results of which were reported in the influential Messages from Research series. He retains an interest in this area of study and directed two research projects into the use of Family Group Conferences, one with youth offenders, the other in mental health. 

He is interested in mixed methods in social research, especially the use of QMethodology to explore “patterned subjectivities” Path Analysis and Structural Equation Modelling. 

With Dr Jane Reeves, Professor Shemmings established the Centre for Child Protection. This work involves the development of ‘serious games’, which are immersive, virtual reality platforms to help professionals.

Until 2009, he was the principal investigator of a research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council entitled 'An Action Research Project to Increase the Confidence and Capability of Academic Social Work Researchers across the UK'. 

Most recent research grants 

  • 2013 - now Joint lead on research totalling £2.4m with the Centre for Child Protection, University of Kent 
  • 2011 - Lead on a University of Kent Innovation and Enterprise Ideas Factory grant ‘Developing the Kent Online Child Protection Hub – new approaches to child protection skills and methods using virtual reality environment technology and online lectures, seminars, discussion groups and blogs 
  • 2010 - Co-I on the ESRC RDI 4 Increasing the competence and confidence of social work researchers III 
  • 2010 - Lead on the West London Alliance Advanced Child Protection Programme 


Professor Shemmings contributes to modules on the MA in Advanced Child Protection.  


Please contact Professor Shemmings if you have a proposal in his areas of interest.  He currently supervises six PhD students.



  • Expert Panel for the DfE’s What Works? Initiative.   
  • UK-wide Planning Team established to implement A Social Work Research Strategy in Higher Education: 2006-2020 by the Joint Universities Council for Social Work Education Committee (JUC-SWEC).

Current External Examining 

  • Leeds University, BA programme. 
  • York University, MSc programme 
  • University of Bath, BA programme 
  • UEA, PQ/MA programme  



  • Shemmings, D. and Little, M. (2017). Children’s social work at the crossroads. Journal of Children’s Services [Online] 12:69-71. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JCS-09-2017-0040.
  • Shemmings, D. (2016). Making Sense of Disorganised Attachment Behaviour in Pre-school Children. International Journal of Birth and Parent Education [Online] 4. Available at: https://ijbpe.com/index.php/journals/past-issues/vol-4-issue-1-contents.
    The concept of ‘disorganised attachment’ arose from the ‘Strange Situation Procedure’ designed by John Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, which led to the discovery of three distinctive patterns of attachment termed ‘secure’, ‘insecure: anxious-avoidant’ and ‘insecure: anxious-ambivalent’. Some children do not fit any of these categories. This article explores possible mechanisms for their ‘disorganised’ attachment, concluding that if a child cannot find comfort, reassurance or protection from a caring adult when severely stressed, then this can lead to developmental problems later on; but if the ‘caring adult’ is the cause of the fear then this can be even more damaging.
  • Reeves, J., Sheriyar, A. and Shemmings, D. (2015). Radicalisation and Extremism: a guide for social workers and those involved in social care. Community Care Inform [Online]. Available at: https://www.ccinform.co.uk/practice-guidance/prevent-and-social-work-policy-procedures-and-resources/.
    Part of: Practical Guidance - Prevent and social work: policy, procedures and resources
  • Reeves, J., Drew, I., Shemmings, D. and Ferguson, H. (2015). ‘Rosie 2’ A Child Protection Simulation: Perspectives on Neglect and the ‘Unconscious At Work’. Child Abuse Review [Online] 24:346-364. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/car.2362.
    Neglect is the most common category for abuse of children under one. It is prevalent in large families; where there is a mother with low self-esteem and frequent changes of partner. Because neglect is difficult to work with, the Centre for Child Protection at the University of Kent has developed a child protection simulation – ‘Rosie 2’ – which is designed to train child protection professionals. It follows a social worker and health visitor on a virtual home visit to a family where neglect is a significant concern, and offers a safe opportunity to explore practice options. A small-scale research project has been conducted whereby highly sensitive eye tracker technology and facial recognition software were used to examine the emotional responses exhibited by social workers and health visitors during this ‘virtual visit’. The results indicate that the prevailing emotion exhibited by the professional group showed a ‘neutral’ response. There were significant differences between the groups, with health visitors displaying more sadness, and social workers demonstrating greater surprise and disgust. The article discusses these findings in the context of debates on compassion fatigue and emotional response within child protection. We conclude by discussing how the findings can enhance professionals' supervision.
  • Shemmings, D., Shemmings, Y. and Cook, A. (2012). Gaining the trust of ’highly resistant’ families: Insights from attachment theory and research. Child and Family Social Work [Online] 17:130-137. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2206.2012.00834.x.
    Despite being a contested and imprecise notion, the term 'highly resistant families' has grown in usage over the past few years. It refers, at one end of a spectrum, to parents who have been falsely accused of maltreating a child and to violent, even dangerous individuals, at the other. To complicate matters, the notion of false or 'disguised' compliance describes some family members who may confuse practitioners by appearing to co-operate while merely going through the motions. Excluding parents who have been falsely accused, resistant or reluctant family members are likely to find considerable difficultly 'mentalizing'- a concept similar to empathy, derived from contemporary applications of attachment-based research - which we discuss in this paper. From an innovative study by Forrester etal., we note en passant that empathy was rarely observed when social workers were asked to enact a child protection referral in vignettes conducted by actors playing the role of parent. We summarize key neurobiological research underpinning pioneering new insights into empathy and mentalization, along with their implications for child protection social workers. We conclude by briefly outlining a promising mentalization-based intervention already proving to be effective with reluctant or resistant parents. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
  • Ellingsen, I., Shemmings, D. and Størksen, I. (2011). The Concept of ‘family’ among Norwegian adolescents in long-term foster care. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal [Online] 28:301-318. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10560-011-0234-0.
    In Norway, about 8,000 children live in foster homes (about 3.300 in age group 13–17). What does ‘family’ mean to these children? We explored the views and feelings about ‘family’ among 22 adolescents who are living in long-term foster care. Three patterns emerged. Most of the participants expressed confidence and adjustment in the foster home placement and felt bonded to both their foster family and to their birth family. Other adolescents expressed a strong sense of membership to their birth family but not to their foster family, and the remaining adolescents described a weak bond to birth family but a strong bond to their foster family. The main implications of the three patterns are discussed in the light of policy and practice.
  • Shemmings, D. and Shemmings, Y. (2011). Indicators of disorganised attachment in children. Community Care [Online]:34-35. Available at: http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2011/01/21/indicators-of-disorganised-attachment-in-children/.
    Disorganised attachment refers to momentary behaviours displayed by children if they find themselves in anxiety-provoking situations into which an abusive caregiver enters. Because they don’t know what to do, they experience what American academic Mary Main called “fear without solution” and end up behaving in bizarre ways, albeit only for a few seconds. Older children display disorganised attachment behaviours when they contemplate attachment-related scenarios involving caregivers. The condition is predictive of maltreatment, not merely correlated with it.
  • Shemmings, D. and Shemmings, Y. (2011). Research review - Evidence-based research into disorganised attachment and child maltreatment. Community Care [Online]. Available at: http://www.ccinform.co.uk/articles/2011/01/20/5699/evidence-based+research+into+disorganised+attachment+and+child.html?keywords=shemmings&subquerykeywords=&categoryname=all&topics=&gwa_searchtype=tabbedsearch.
    One of the main reasons why the assessment of child maltreatment allegations is problematic is because of confusion about the difference between correlation and prediction.
  • Reeves, J. and Shemmings, D. (2011). The use of serious games in child protection. Community Care.
  • Mutter, R., Shemmings, D., Dugmore, P. and Hyare, M. (2008). Family group conferences in youth justice. Health & Social Care in the Community [Online] 16:262-270. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2524.2008.00770.x.
    This paper discusses part of an evaluation of the ‘Family Group Conference (FGC) Project for Young People Who Offend’ within a large social services department (‘Exshire’). The evaluation covers all 30 family group
    conferences during a 15-month period from September 2000 to December 2001. This article presents the findings relating to young people along with changes in their psychosocial profile using a modified version of the
    Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ; Goodman 1997). The views of all participants were positive, with the majority saying they would recommend FGCs to others. FGC was felt by most participants to have brought about changes in the way young people view the world, partly by
    helping them to accept the reality of offending in a way that had not previously been possible. It provided victims with a unique opportunity to become involved in the youth justice system, recognising them as key stakeholders as a result of a crime. This process left most victims with a sense of satisfaction and resolution. Average SDQ scores were lower following FGC for the 12 young people who responded to follow-up interviews. Although there are a number of restorative justice projects using FGC in
    youth justice, we believe this project is among the first in the UK to establish the use of the New Zealand model with its emphasis on ‘private family time’ as an ongoing established service. Although the data were collected before 2002, the project contains unique features which we believe should be brought to the attention of the wider academic and practice community given that FGC is still a fairly new, unexplored and under-evaluated phenomenon in youth justice. There is currently a need for more research
    looking at the use of FGC in relation to young offenders.
  • Brooks, F. and Shemmings, D. (2008). Guest editorial: Health and social care needs of children and young people. Health & Social Care in the Community [Online] 16:219-221. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2524.2008.00785.x.
  • Shemmings, D. (2006). Using adult attachment theory to differentiate adult children’s internal working models of later life filial relationships. Journal of Aging Studies [Online] 20:177-191. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaging.2005.12.001.
    During the past fifty years, research based on attachment theory has found that when relational partners' attachment systems are activated, significant differences emerge between the ways individuals respond to each other. These different attachment styles are related to the ways individuals characterise and conceptualise close relationships generally, referred to as ‘internal representations’. Internal representations of close relationships depend heavily upon whether individuals have a secure or insecure attachment style. Until recently, most attachment-based research has focused either on the parent–child relationship during infancy, or on adult 12
    romantic relationships. Attachment researchers are now turning their attention to the parent–‘child’ relationship during the later stages of life. Later life filial relationships are of intrinsic interest to attachment researchers because they concern the same adults who were instrumental in forming the attachment organisation of the young child. This study considers filial attachments from the perspective of the adult ‘child’. Twenty-four participants were selected using the Attachment Style Questionnaire (ASQ) to include equal numbers of the three main attachment organisations. Six robust factors emerged, accounting for 71% of the variation. Confident Resolution and Resolved Yearning incorporated the secure attachment organisation. Distant Irritation and Dutiful Loyalty captured the insecure-avoidant style, with Unresolved Yearning and Entangled Resentment comprising insecure-ambivalent individuals.
  • Shemmings, D. (2006). ’"Quantifying” qualitative data: an illustrative example of the use of Q methodology in psychosocial research’. Qualitative Research in Psychology 3:147-165.
    This article focuses on an application of Q methodology (QM) to an appliedarea of psychological research. It constitutes a complementary sequel to a recent paper in these pages by Watts and Stenner (2005) and outlines how
    QM can be used to identify patterns and themes in interview transcripts, fieldnotes or naturalistic observation, as a complementary alternative to other qualitative analytic methods. QM was devised by William
    Stephenson in the 1930s, after he developed considerable misgivings over what he saw as the almost exclusively positivist leanings of psychological research methodology at the time (a trend which, arguably, has only been challenged relatively recently). QM is now increasingly seen by some research psychologists as providing an innovative approach to qualitative analysis, by strengthening conceptual categorization through the quantification of patterned subjectivities, using Q-sorts. Although QM deploys factor analysis, the mathematics of which is complex, it is a ‘user-friendly’ method and requires no knowledge of mathematics to interpret the data
    obtained. Key theoretical constructs of QM are first outlined and then illustrated with an example from a relatively undiscovered area of attachment theory: later life filial relationships between adult children
    and their aging parents. Six factors emerged in line with contemporary attachment-based research predictions about attachment security and insecurity
  • Shemmings, D. (2004). Researching relationships from an attachment perspective: The use of behavioural, interview, self-report and projective measures. Journal of Social Work Practice 18:299-314.
    Having demonstrated its credentials as one of the more elegant and robust conceptualisations of human relationships, attachment theory has considerable relevance to social work. Attachment-based research has flourished over the past few years and it now includes an impressive array of studies across the lifespan. This article considers four different measures used in attachment-based research, although more discussion is devoted to interview and projective measures because they specifically embrace a psychodynamic approach in their design and analytic focus. The aim of the article is to provide a brief overview of each measure and to offer some illustrative examples using practice-related material.
  • Howe, D., Shemmings, D. and Feast, J. (2001). Age at placement and adult adopted people’s experience of being adopted. Child and Family Social Work [Online] 6:337-349. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2206.2001.00215.x.
    Older age at placement has long been recognized as a risk factor in successful adoption outcomes. The findings of the present study emerged as part of a larger study that looked at the adoption experiences and reunion outcomes of 472 adults who had either searched for or been sought by one or more of their birth relatives. As part of the investigation, adopted adults were asked to evaluate their adoption experience. Age at placement was used as a key variable in examining whether or not adopted people felt different to their adoptive family, felt they belonged in their adoptive family, and felt loved by their adoptive parents while growing up. Respondents were also asked to evaluate their overall experience of being adopted. Older age at placement significantly increased the risk of adopted people viewing major aspects of their adoption experience with either mixed or negative feelings.


  • Reeves, J., Shemmings, D., Green, T., Abbotts, H. and Marsden, L. (2016). Training Pack: ’myCourtroom’ Rosies Family Go to Court. [Web resource]. University of Kent and Cafcass. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2017.1391772.
    The role of social workers in court, how they prepare, train, write and present their reports, has been the focus of much debate. Key messages from research tell us that social workers often find court work stressful; they can lack confidence in writing reports giving evidence and being cross-examined. Pre-qualification training in this area can be patchy, with many workers reporting they often learn ‘on the job.’ This article documents the journey from analysing primary and secondary research findings, via a partnership between the University of Kent Centre for Child Protection and Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), to develop a training simulation for practitioners to increase their knowledge, preparation and practice for court. The partnership turned these research findings into an interactive, immersive simulation to give practitioners the space to reflect upon and critique their experiences of court. Findings from an initial evaluation of the simulation were positive with participants highly rating its usefulness in developing courtroom skills and knowledge.
  • Corby, B., Shemmings, D. and Wilkins, D. (2012). Child Abuse: An Evidence Base for Confident Practice. [Online]. Open University Press. Available at: http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/jsp/display_product_info.jsp?isbn=9780335245093.
    This seminal text on theory and research has been fully updated in terms of policy, cases and research. With a clarity of writing, the authors provide a knowledge base for the whole area of child abuse and child protection which is accessible to both the qualified experienced practitioner and in-experienced student, in particular the use of clear examples used to highlight a discussion or point. * Summaries of content at the beginning of each chapter * Detailed history chapters with chronologies at the end * Critical debate / standpoint on research studies and statistics * Comprehensive coverage of relevant issues, historical and contemporary * Extensive bibliography
  • Shemmings, D. and Shemmings, Y. (2011). Understanding Disorganized Attachment: Theory and Practice for Working With Children and Adults. [Online]. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Available at: http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/jsp/id/Understanding_Disorganized_Attachment/9781849050449.
    Disorganized attachment, the most extreme form of insecure attachment, can develop in a child when the person who is meant to protect them becomes a source of danger. Someone with disorganized attachment experiences 'fear without a solution', and it can result in extreme, erratic and disturbing behaviour. This book provides a comprehensive and accessible text on disorganized attachment. It outlines what it is, how it can be identified, the key causes, how it manifests in adulthood, and the implications for caregivers and those within close relationships. It also covers the debate over whether disorganized attachment can repeat down generations within families, and discusses neurological explanations and appropriate interventions. The book focuses on both children and adults and includes case vignettes to root the theory in practice and to illustrate real-life examples of disorganized attachment. With an authoritative research base, this accessible text will be invaluable to undergraduate and postgraduate students in the fields of social care, psychology, counselling and allied health professions, as well as practitioners and academics in these fields.
  • Orme, J. and Shemmings, D. (2010). Developing Research Based Social Work Practice. [Online]. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Available at: http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=284582.
    Developing Research Based Social Work Practice explores how research can improve the quality of social work. It provides an overview of the core theoretical concepts and the processes and practices in undertaking research.

    Locating the place of social work research within the social sciences, this innovative book promotes critical debate to strengthen both the research base and day-to-day practice. It is designed to encourage 'reflective research practitioners' - professionals who are both critically reflective and research aware - and does so by:

    ? presenting a range of approaches within research;
    ? highlighting distinctive aspects of social work research, such as emancipatory
    research and researching sensitive topics;
    ? reflecting on the strengths of research and identifying how to utilize findings;
    ? introducing beginning researchers to the rationales for undertaking research.

    Highlighting the importance of how research informs practice, this book is essential reading for students on qualifying and post-qualifying courses, practitioners, managers and policy makers.
  • Shemmings, D. (2005). Adult Attachment Theory. UEA Social Work Monographs.

Book section

  • Shemmings, D. (2014). Disorganised Attachment and Reactive Attachment Disorders. In: Holmes, P. and Farnfield, S. eds. The Routledge Handbook of Attachment: Theory. Taylor & Francis Ltd, Routledge. Available at: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415538275/.
  • Shemmings, D. and Ellingsen, I. (2012). Using Q Methodology in Qualitative Interviews (Chapter 28). In: Gubrium, J. F., Holstein, J. A., Marvasti, A. B. and McKinney, K. D. eds. The SAGE Handbook of Interview Research: The Complexity of the Craft. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc, pp. 415-426. Available at: http://www.uk.sagepub.com/books/Book234483/toc#tabview=toc.
  • Shemmings, D. and Shemmings, Y. (2003). ’Developing research-mindedness for managers and supervisors’. In: Seden, J. and Reynolds, J. eds. Managing Care in Practice. Routeledge, pp. 111-136.
  • Shemmings, Y. and Shemmings, D. (2001). ‘Empowering children and family members to participate in the assessment process’. In: Horwath, J. ed. The Child’s World: Assessing Children in Need. London: London: Jessica Kingsley, pp. 114-128. Available at: http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/jsp/id/The_Childs_World/9781853029578.

Conference or workshop item

  • Shemmings, D. (2008). Why and how do we become attached to places?. In: Royal Geographic Society Annual Conference.
    Early care-giving relationships establish an attachment system which optimally provides a secure base from which the developing child explores her or his environment. Recent insights from evolutionary psychology, however, cast some doubt upon whether attachments continue to be between ‘one or a few’ specific individuals (as originally proposed by Bowlby and his collaborators). Contemporary research into attachment theory in adulthood uncovers other, non-human, representations of the secure base, one of which is the notion of ‘attachment to place’, especially the ‘place’ where we were born and raised. For example, it is now well-documented that people in the later stages of dementia often state that they want to ‘go home’, and that what they mean is their home of birth, not their most recent dwelling.

    The concept of ‘attachment to place’ raises interesting questions about how and why some of us feel affinities with towns and neighbourhoods alongside a sometimes irresistible urge to revisit them, usually in times of stress. This urge goes beyond mere nostalgia.

    I shall also draw upon research which examines the psychosocial processes that claim to explain ‘attachment to place’, as well as discuss some of the biographical antecedents, correlates and sequelae surrounding and accompanying our apparently unique human need regularly to ‘go home’, either literally or by holding the idea of ‘home’ in mind.
  • Shemmings, D. Realising the Potential of Q Methodology in Social Research: Patterned Subjectivity as ’Works of Thought’. In: International Sociological Association Annual Conference.
    The methodological ‘problem’ is that of easing and relaxing some of the tensions and differences between quantitative and qualitative methodologies and methods. Q Methodology (QM) offers one of the first “alternative” methods to have been developed in the context of (social) research and is now increasingly seen by many social researchers as an innovative complementary approach to qualitative analysis by developing conceptual categorisation through the quantification of ‘patterned subjectivities’ using Q-sorts. It is sometimes referred to as a qualiquantological approach. QM is capable of augmenting existing qualitative analytic techniques aimed at identifying patterns and themes in interview transcripts, fieldnotes or naturalistic observation. QM deploys factor analysis but the method requires no knowledge of mathematics to interpret the data obtained. Although as a method it relies upon a statistical technique to identify relationships within data, QM’s centre of gravity is clearly qualitative in nature. QM is a method/ology with a wide range of applications, particularly where exploratory research focusing on views, perceptions and attitudes is required. Unlike more traditional survey methods, in QM, categories are identified within the population concerned, not imposed on the population by the researcher, thus permitting a the identification of operant categories (that can then be used in standard questionnaire approaches, if necessary). As both a method and a methodology, QM offers distinct possibilities for the full involvement of users and research participants throughout a research study. Because they routinely assist in the design of the Q Sort statements, they become key social actors during and after the process of analysis; emergent and tentative analytic categories are also discussed and refined with them.

Edited book

  • Shemmings, D. and Shemmings, Y. eds. (2014). Assessing Disorganized Attachment Behaviour in Children; An Evidence-Based Model for Understanding and Supporting Families. [Online]. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Available at: http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/book/9781849053228.
    Assessing Disorganized Attachment Behaviour in Children lays out an evidence-based model for working with and assessing children with disorganized attachment and their adult carers: families whose extreme, erratic and disturbing behaviour can make them perplexing and frustrating to work with.

    The model is designed to identify key indicators and explanatory mechanisms of child maltreatment: disorganized attachment in the child, a parent's unresolved loss or trauma, disconnected and extremely insensitive parenting, and low parental mentalisation. The book also outlines ways of assessing children for disorganized attachment and carer capacity, and proposes interventions.

    Accessible and practical, this book is essential reading for child protection professionals.

Internet publication

  • Shemmings, D. (2011). Attachment in Children and Young People [Research briefing]. Available at: http://www.rip.org.uk/research-evidence/research-briefings/frontline.
    Frontline practitioners play a critical role in supporting improved outcomes for children, young people and their families. This series of research briefings is aimed at those practitioners. It addresses the need for practitioners to understand complex core concepts in ways that they can relate directly to their own practice and so use to improve the service they provide and their inter-professional practice. These combine short, concise and practical summaries of research and theory with pointers for action. Each briefing has links to useful resources that will inform practice and give practitioners more confidence in exercising their professional judgement.


  • Reeves, J., Shemmings, D., Petit, A., Smith, M., Shaw, N. and Pell, S. (2012). Rosie 2 Inter-Professional Training Pack. University of Kent. Available at: http://www.kent.ac.uk/sspssr/ccp/game/rosie2index.html.
    A 37 page training pack with literature reviw and worksheets to support the simulation Rosie 2

Research report (external)

  • Reeves, J. and Shemmings, D. (2014). Zak Evaluation for Kent Police. University of Kent.
    This evaluation was commissioned by Kent Police to look at the impact of the Zak simulation tool in Kent Schools (2013/2014.
    The findings were used to release the Zak simulation for National UK training. With thanks to Maria Le Hane (researcher).


  • Shemmings, D. Seven Rules for Social Research. Times Higher Education:51-51.


  • Reeves, J., Sheriyar, A. and Shemmings, D. (2016). Behind closed doors; a serious game simulation on young women going to Syria. [Online].
  • Reeves, J., Shemmings, D. and Blake, E. (2014). Looking out for Lottie: Child Sexual Exploitation. [HTML based game]. Available at: http://www.kent.ac.uk/sspssr/ccp/game/Lottieindex.html.
    The prevalence of CSE, cyber-bullying and online grooming are some of society’s biggest challenges. In response to this, the University of Kent’s Centre for Child Protection (in partnership with Kent Police and Kent County Council and NHS Kent Surrey and Sussex) has developed two interactive serious game simulations - ‘Zak’ and 'Looking out for Lottie' for use by professionals and young people. 'Looking out for Lottie' is a serious game simulation with versions designed for both professionals and young people, identifying how young people are groomed online for sexual exploitation. The simulation looks in depth at CSE, cyber-bullying and online grooming, gaining insight into grooming behaviour, how to spot it on different social media and, vitally, how to help victims protect themselves. After using the tool professionals can use Lottie for direct work with young people: to learn about grooming methods via social media in a real-life ‘Facebook’'Twitter' 'Instagram' 'You tube' style scenario and resource. By understanding the behaviours and implications of the characters, young people learn how to keep themselves and their friends safe on social media.
  • Reeves, J. and Shemmings, D. (2014). Visiting Elliot: Managing the risk of sex offenders in the community. [Flash based game]. Available at: http://www.kent.ac.uk/sspssr/ccp/game/Elliotindex.html.
  • Reeves, J., Sheriyar, A. and Shemmings, D. (2013). Zak, exploring radicalisation. [Flash based game]. Available at: http://www.kent.ac.uk/sspssr/ccp/game/zakindex.html.
    As a response to the UK Prevent agenda The Centre for Child Protection, KCC and Kent Police have worked in partnership to develop an interactive simulation tool which will provide teachers and young people with a tool to promote discussion in the classroom. It can be used in PHSE and Citizenship to explore the topics of radicalisation, extremism, online groomng and internet safety. It is currently being used in all secondary schools in Kent for this purpose. Kent police and the University currently host regular training days on the tool and have developed a training pack to accompany the simulation. in 2015 the tool has been released for National UK training and use.
  • Reeves, J. and Shemmings, D. (2012). Rosie 2; a case of neglect. [Flash based game]. Available at: http://www.kent.ac.uk/sspssr/ccp/game/rosie2index.html.
    Neglect is the most common category for abuse of children under 1 (Cuthbert and Ryans 2011; Brandon et al 2010). It is more prevalent in large families (Brandon et al 2010) where there is a mother with low self-esteem (Moran 2011), frequent changes of partner, and with parents who frequently miss appointments (Brandon et al 2010). Because child neglect is difficult to assess and work with in families, the Centre for Child Protection at the University of Kent has developed a child protection virtual learning platform (serious game simulation) - 'Rosie 2’ - which is designed to engage and train child protection professionals. It follows a social worker and health visitor on a virtual home visit to a family where neglect is a significant concern. ‘Rosie 2’ takes practitioners into an immersive world where it is safe to explore practice options and emotional responses to different scenes; the professionals have to make choices and decisions regarding what will happen to all the children and to assess the parenting capacity of the mother, Connie. The resource is a reflective, safe space for practitioners to discuss issues, assess and re-asses and take risks safely
  • Reeves, J. and Shemmings, D. (2011). Rosie 1. [Flash based game availible to download from link]. Available at: http://www.kent.ac.uk/sspssr/ccp/game/rosie1index.html.
    Rosie 1 is a child protection simulation which allows students or professionals to enter a family home on a seemingly benign section 47 visit and make choices and decisions about what to talk to the family about and how to say it. It offers the opportunity to experience a home visit and reflect on what goes on and to take risks about what to do, safely. As the story and narrative unfold (based upon a real case and empirical research) the events take a more sisnster perspective and raise quesitons about professional safety and the protection of children. Rosie 1 is the first in a suite of inter-professional serious game simulations developed by the Centre for Child Protection.


  • Kerr, M. (2016). The Relationship Between Evidence and Policy in children’s Social Care: The Case of Looked After Children.
    This thesis investigates the relationship between the needs of looked after children, evidence and policy. It questions the assumption that this area of policy is evidence-based in the context of tackling the population's primary needs and improving their life outcomes.

    Services for looked after children and care leavers in England and Wales are at a critical juncture in policy and practice. In an area of Government policy where Ministers have adopted a top down command and control style of governing, local authorities as 'corporate parents' are in a difficult position. The combination of significant budget cuts for Children's Services and the highest number of children in care in 30 years threatens their ability to effectively deliver on statutory duties. The reality is local authorities are rationing some forms of therapeutic children's care. These decisions are not evidence informed but a demonstration of a myopic approach to meet budget reduction targets. Local authorities increasingly need knowledge about what works, when and for which children.

    The aims of the research required mixed methods to be used. Quantitative methods are used to initially to map the needs of looked after children and care leavers as population including secondary analysis of official statistics. They are further used in a primary research study, an integral part of this thesis, to provide primary data on the care experiences and life outcomes for a sample of care leavers. Against the evidence, the thesis considers relevant policy to evaluate its impact over the last 25 years.

    The critical analysis of the relationship between evidence and policy required a qualitative approach using theories of policy-making heuristically applying Kingdon's (1984) multiple streams approach. To understand the way evidence is used to frame the needs of populations, the role of social constructivism must be considered.

    Both the primary and secondary data indicate extremely high needs in the care population and among care leavers in adulthood, in particular emotional and mental health needs both in and after care. Factors that are policy goals for improvement including education and employment outcomes have made some improvement in a small number of domains, but overall outcomes for this population are not improving in some areas and getting worse in others.

    Although evidence is considered in policy-making for this population, it is used selectively and heavily influenced by policy actor's values and beliefs. This is having a detrimental effect on improving outcomes and causing a large proportion of the care population to move to independence with treatable mental illness, shunting costs to adult services.

    There is no evidence to indicate the increase in the use of fostering is able to meet the needs of a large percentage of the care population or improve their outcomes. The findings from the empirical study, although with limitations, indicates that this may be increasing the number of placement breakdowns due to high need young people being inappropriately placed in foster care instead of residential care.

    Addressing needs and improving outcomes for looked after children requires a life-course approach. This is not conducive with the organisation and operations of the Department for Education. The primary need for looked after children is mental health and the most appropriate Government department to lead on their care is the Department of Health. Currently local authorities are expected to fund and meet the needs of looked after children but are not adequately resourced. Due to financial constraints, perverse incentives exists for minimal investment to meet statutory duties leading to the cost shunting of treatable mental health needs to the Department of Health, and unaddressed negative behaviours to the Ministry of Justice.
  • Wilkins, D. (2015). The Use of Theory and Research Knowledge in Child Protection Social Work Practice: A Study of Disorganised Attachment and Child Protection Assessment.
    This thesis seeks to examine how child protection social workers use theory and research knowledge related to disorganised attachment in the course of their practice with potentially abused or neglected children. In order to facilitate this understanding, three supplementary research questions are posed – (1) ‘how do child protection social workers use the theory and research knowledge related to disorganised attachment in work with children who may be at risk of significant harm due to abuse or neglect?’ (2) ‘how do child protection social workers use theory and research knowledge related to disorganised attachment when assessing children who may be at risk of significant harm due to abuse or neglect?’ and (3) ‘how do child protection social workers incorporate the theory and research knowledge related to disorganised attachment into their existing social work practice?’

    The research described in this thesis consists of the use of two methods – guided conversation interviews and Q-method. In answer to the primary research aim, it was found that child protection social workers, suitably trained, are able to usefully apply the theory and research knowledge related to disorganised attachment in practice and that they may do so in a small variety of ways related to developing a better understanding of the children and carers they work with; as a way of aiding them to help and support the carers of the child being assessed, and as a way of completing better assessments. Thematically, it was notable that all of the participants described their use of the theory and research knowledge related to disorganised attachment by reference to the methods and techniques they were able to put into practice, such as Adult and Child Attachment Interviews, and how their use of this theory and research knowledge was thus mediated or applied via the use of these and other similar techniques.

    As a result of these findings, further research would be useful as to how the development of new techniques (or co-option of existing techniques) may be helpful as a way of facilitating the transfer of theory and research knowledge into social work practice. Further research regarding the impact of the use of theory and research knowledge related to disorganised attachment in child protection social work practice would also be useful, particularly whether the outcomes for children and families are improved as a result.


  • Reeves, J. and Sheriyar, A. (2016). Radicalisation; whose responsibility?. In: Shemmings, D. ed. Child Maltreatment for Practitioners. tbc.
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