The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2016 | Neighbourhood green space and children's cognition and behaviour (UCL IOE / LSHTM)
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Neighbourhood Green Space and Children's Cognition and Behaviour

Principle Supervisor: Professor Eirini Flouri (UCL IOE), Dr Emily Midouhas (UCL IOE)

Co-Supervisor: Dr Ellen Flint

Green neighbourhood environments are thought to make their residents healthier, happier, fitter and slimmer. However, there has been little research on the importance of neighbourhood green space for children. This project will attempt to fill this gap.

The existing research has two important limitations. First, it is mainly cross-sectional and therefore does not provide an accurate representation of how exposure to neighbourhoods over time may influence child outcomes. Related to this, neighbourhood composition, which influences the use of neighbourhood green space, may change over time. Also, the use children may make of increasingly independent access to green space is also likely to change with their age. Second, most research on this topic has a weak conception of neighbourhood, as it does not allow the amount of green space in adjacent areas to influence child outcomes. This assumption may be particularly hard to justify for residents of towns and cities, where neighbourhoods have a relatively small spatial scale and residents’ spatial behaviours are not confined simply to their neighbourhood of residence.

This project, using longitudinal data from the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a survey of more than 19,000 children, will meet its overall aim of exploring the effect of quantity of neighbourhood green space on children’s trajectories of cognitive and emotional/behavioural outcomes from 3 to 11 years, while addressing these limitations. It will track children over time and over any change of neighbourhood, and will take into account adjacent territories to their neighbourhood boundaries. It will also explore green space ‘effects’ separately for rural and urban areas, to avoid confounding neighbourhood green space with levels of rurality. Emotional and behavioural outcomes will be measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, and cognitive outcomes by the British Ability Scales. To better understand the impact of neighbourhood green space on children, this project will also compare the effect of quantity of green space with that of other aspects of the physical environment (detailed below). The project’s research objectives are discussed in detail below.

The primary research objective is to model the association between neighbourhood green space and child outcomes. The green space measure that will be used is the 2001 estimate of the percentage of combined coverage of all green spaces (public or private) larger than 5 sq mi (excluding domestic gardens) for each Census Area Statistics ward (around 5,000 residents) in the UK ( It is expected that, even after accounting for the selective sorting of families into neighbourhoods (greener areas have higher-property prices and therefore attract a higher-income population), neighbourhood green space will still predict cognitive and emotional/behavioural outcomes in children. Guided by findings from previous research on adults showing that neighbourhood effects are in general multiplicative, this project will also investigate interactive associations between green space and other measures of ‘context’ (such as neighbourhood air quality, neighbourhood social fragmentation, neighbourhood crime and family poverty) on child outcomes. Finally, this project will test the mechanisms suggested for the expected association between neighbourhood green space and child cognition and behaviour.

The second research objective is to compare the effect of green space with that of multiple environmental deprivation (the balance of pathogenic and salutogenic environmental characteristics in the neighbourhood) on child outcomes. This analysis will determine any unique contributions green space makes to child development. Green space is only one aspect of the physical environment that may influence health and behaviour. Other aspects include air pollutants (SO2, PM10, NO2, CO), climate, proximity to waste management or metal production/processing sites, drinking-water quality, noise levels and exposure to UVB radiation. Recently, green space and six of these physical characteristics for which data for the whole of the UK are available (i.e., apart from noise and drinking-water quality) have been combined to create the Multiple Environmental Deprivation Index, which this project will use (excluding the green space component) for this comparison.

Data: The project will use all available MCS sweeps (9 months, and 3, 5, 7, 11 years). MCS is publicly available but all the geographical data needed are disclosive, and will therefore be accessed with special arrangements. All data preparation and analysis will be carried out using, remotely, the Secure Data Service (SDS;

Proposed methodology: Secondary data analysis. The project will use advanced quantitative analyses (multilevel regression and structural equation modelling). Growth curve models will be fitted to explore the role of neighbourhood green space in the development of children's cognition and behaviour over time. Spatial mapping, to identify surrounding areas, will be done using ArcGIS.

Candidate Requirements

Graduates with a first class/upper second undergraduate degree or a Master’s degree in psychology, social or medical statistics, quantitative human geography or other relevant social science with an interest and aptitude for quantitative methods and statistical modelling are encouraged to apply. The project will require advanced statistical analysis skills (e.g., Mplus to fit structural equation models, MLwiN or STATA for multilevel models).

Key References

Evans, G.W. (2006). Child development and the physical environment. Annu Rev Psychol:57, 423-451.

Flouri, E., Midouhas, E., Joshi, H. (2014). The role of urban neighbourhood green space in children’s emotional and behavioural resilience. J Environ Psychol:40, 179-186

Further details about the project ma be obtained from:

Principal Supervisor: Professor Eirini Flouri,

Principal Supervisor: Dr Emily Midouhas,


Dr Ellen Flint,

Further information about PhDs at UCL Institute of Education and LSHTM is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

Please do NOT apply for this scholarship via UCL SELECT. The Bloomsbury application form is available from Isabelle Jerome:

Isabelle Jerome, Bloomsbury DTC Administrator, Doctoral School, Institute of Education

The required supporting documentation is as follows:

  • A personal statement indicating how your qualifications, experience and research interests make you a suitable candidate for your chosen scholarship.
  • Covering letter and CV
  • A piece of your own written work, such as an essay, dissertation or article.
  • Transcripts of your undergraduate and (where applicable) postgraduate qualifications
  • Two confidential references

Closing date for Application is:

Friday 22 April 2016