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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Kay Tisdall

Kay Tisdall
Professor Kay Tisdall
Professor of Childhood Policy, Programme Director MSc Childhood Studies and Co-director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships
3.27 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0)131 650 3930
Research Interests
Childhood and Youth Studies, Participation, Children's Rights, Socio-legal, Public policy, Child Welfare, Citizenship, Human rights, disability, Education

My Edinburgh Research Explorer listing can be accessed here:


  • AB (Harvard University)
  • LLB (Strathclyde University)
  • PhD (Edinburgh University)

Biographical statement

Current and recent research projects include theorising children's participation, investigating school councils, early education and learning across European countries, and contested contact in situations of domestic abuse. I have a considerable interest in the links between policy, practice and academia. From 1999-2003, for example, I held a joint post between the University and Director of Policy & Research at Children in Scotland (the national umbrella agency for organisations working with children and their families).

I established and then convened the MSc/ Diploma in Childhood Studies, an inter-disciplinary postgraduate degree.

I have also held a joint post as Director of Policy & Research, Children in Scotland   (1999-2003), as lecturer Department of Social Policy & Social Work (1997-1999) Centre for the Child & Society (1995-1997), University of Glasgow, and Policy and Research Manager Children in Scotland, Edinburgh. (1993-1995)

I am Programme Director of the MSc in Childhood Studies. If you would like more information on the degree, please see the degree webpages.

Sample Collaborative Research Projects

My current and recent research activities include the following. More information on certain of these projects can be found at

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada "International and Canadian Child Rights Partnership" (2016-19) With PI Tara Collins Ryerson University, with teams from University of Cape Town, CIESPI Brazil, McGill University and others. Co-investigator.

Scottish Government "Empowered and Effective Decision Making" (2013-16) Grant held by Capability Scotland. 

Scotland's Commissioner for Children & Young People "Youth Football Registration in Scotland – exploring the views of young players" (2014-15) Qualitative research with young people. With Carole Ewart. Adviser.

Office of Children's Commissioner "Making school complaints work for you” (2014-2015) Qualitative research with young people and parents, across 3 local authorities. With Christina McMellon. Manager.

European Commission. “Keeping Youth Away from Crime” (2013-2015) Grant led by Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS Latvia. UK contribution with Gillean McCluskey and Sheila Riddell. Co-Investigator.

Economic and Social Research Council, Seminar Series. “Revisiting Moral Panics: A Critical Examination of 21st Century Social Issues and Anxieties” (2012-2014) Viviene Cree (University of Edinburgh) and others. Co-Investigator.

Scottish Government "Children's experiences of, and views on, issues relating to the implementation of the UNCRC" (2013) Susan Elsley and Emma Davidson. Co-Investigator.

Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People “Preliminary Research Study into Child Contact Proceedings for Children Affected by Domestic Abuse” (2012) Legal review of contact-related decisions and qualitative research with key stakeholders. With Fiona Morrison (CRFR) and Cl@n Childlaw. Principle Investigator.

Scottish Government “Early Learning and Childcare Provision: International Review of Policy, Delivery and Funding” policy and statistical review across European countries” (2012) With Ingela Naumann, Alison Koslowski, Caitlin McLean (CRFR) and Eva Llyod (University of East London). Co-investigator.

The Information Commissioner UK “Embedding Information Rights in the Primary and Secondary Education Systems of the United Kingdom” (2011-12) Feasibility Study involving literature and policy review, interviews with key stakeholders and children’s reference groups. With Carole Ewart.

Economic and Social Research Council “Supporting the use of digital media in research with children and young people” (2011-12) Susan Elsley (CRFR) and with Michael Gallagher (University of Glasgow). Co-Investigator.

Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People “Early Years Practice – Consulting with Young Children” (2011) Commissioned review with A. Gadda (University of Edinburgh). Grantholder

Economic and Social Research Council "Children and Young People's Participation: From fashion accesory to part of the fabric" (2011-2012) Follow on Fund with Susan Elsley (University of Edinburgh), Jonathan Sher (Children in Scotland) and Selwyn McCausland (Barnardo's Scotland).

The Leverhulme Trust "Theorising Children's Participation: learning across countries and across disciplines" (2008-2011) Academic Network with R.Hinton (DfID and Oxford University) and colleagues in Brazil, India and South Africa. Intensive national seminars will be held, within a 10 day work programme in each country. Children and young people will be involved during this programme. Over the two years, the network will develop further research, academic writing and associated activities, and engagement activities.

Economic and Social Research Council "Exploring Children's Relationships across Majority and Minority Worlds" (2010-2012) Seminar series with Lynn Jamieson and Sue Milne (University of Edinburgh), Philomena de Lima (UHI Millennium Institute), Samantha Punch (University of Stirling) and Daniel Wight (MRC's School and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow.

The Big Lottery Fund "Having a Say at School: research on pupil councils in Scotland" (2006-2010) Systematic exploration of the predominant structural form of children's participation: school councils. Surveys of Scottish local authorities and a selected sample of primary, secondary and special schools (independent and state sectors); case studies in 6 schools, using a range of quantitative and qualitative methods. With Children in Scotland.

Scottish Executive ‘Evaluation of the Use of intensive support and monitoring services within the children's hearing system' (2005-2007) Consultant to project, which involves statistical data analysis, surveys, focus groups, individual interviews and cost-benefit analysis. Grant held by DTZ Pieda Consulting.

I convene or contribute to a range of courses throughout the University, including:

  • Children's Rights (Honours, undergraduate)
  • Childhood and Children's Rights (MSc)
  • Listening to Children: Research and Consultation (MSc) 

Recent Theses

Current and recent topics for supervised PhD students include: family group conferences; privacy, social media and children; father blogs in Taiwan; antisocial behaviour; early years services in India; young people's happiness in Laos; human rights and human development in Pakistan; young people's participation in decision making.

Sample Publications

Tisdall, E.K.M. (2016) ‘Conceptualising children and young people’s participation: examining vulnerability, social accountability and co-production’ International Journal of Human Rights, 21(1): 59-75.

Tisdall, E.K.M. (2016) ‘Subjects with agency? Children’s participation in family law proceedings’, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 38(4): 362-379.  

Tisdall, E.K.M. (2015) ‘Participation, Rights and ‘Participatory’ Methods’, in Farrell, A., Kagan, S.L., Tisdall, E.K.M. (eds) The SAGE Handbook of Early Childhood Research, London: Sage, pp. 73-88.

Tisdall, E.K.M. (2015) ‘Children’s Wellbeing and Children’s Rights in Tension?’, International Journal of Children’s Rights, 23(4): 769-789.

Tisdall, E.K.M. (2015) ‘Children’s Rights and Children’s Wellbeing: Equivalent Policy Concepts?’ Journal of Social Policy, 44(4): 807-823.

Tisdall, E. K.M. (2015) 'Children and Young People's Participation: a critical consideration of Article 12' in Vanderhole, W., Desmet, E., Reynaert, D. and Lembrechts, S. (eds) Routledge International Handbook for Children's Rights Studies, London: Routledge.

Tisdall, E.K.M. (2015) 'Addressing the challenges of children and young people’s participation: considering time and space' in Gal, Tali and Duramy, B. (eds) International Perspectives and Empirical Findings on Child Participation: From Social Exclusion to Child-Inclusive Policies, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tisdall, E.K.M. and Davis, J. (2015) 'Children's Rights and Wellbeing: Tensions within the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014' in Smith, A.B. (ed) Enhancing Children’s Rights: Connecting Research, Policy and Practice, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tisdall, E.K.M.(2014) 'Children should be seen and heard? Children and Young People’s Participation in the UK' in Tisdall, E.K.M., Gadda, A.M. and Butler, U.M. (eds) Children and Young People’s Participation and Its Transformative Potential: Learning from across countries, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Elsley, S., Gallagher, M. and Tisdall, E.K.M. (2014) 'The Dilemmas of Digital Methodologies: learning from work on 'Young Digital'', International Journal of Child, Youth and Family studies, 5(4.1): 702-717.

Tisdall, E.K.M. (2013) 'The transformation of participation? Exploring the potential of 'transformative participation' for theory and practice around children and young people's participation, Global Studies of Childhood, 3(2): 183-193.

Tisdall, E.K.M. (2013) ‘Effective Contributors: Evaluating the Potential for Children and Young People’s Participation in their Own Schooling and Learning’ in Priestley, M. and Biesta, G. (eds) Reinventing the Curriculum, London: Bloomsbury.

Tisdall, E.K.M. and Punch, S. (2012) ‘Not so ‘new’? Looking critically at Childhood Studies’, Children’s Geographies, 10(3): 249-264.

Tisdall, E.K.M. (2012) ‘The Challenge and Challenging of Childhood Studies? Lessons from disability studies and research with disabled children’, Children & Society, 26(3): 181-191.

Tisdall, E.K.M, Davis, J.M. and Gallagher, M. (2009) Research with Children and Young People: Research design, methods and analysis, London: Sage.

Topics interested in supervising

Children's Rights; Children's Participation; Children's and Childhood Policy; Disability issues affecting children; Education and schooling; Related socio-legal analysis; Methodologies of research and consultation with children

If you are interested in being supervised by Kay Tisdall, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Social Policy