Staff Profile

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Career Summary

Qualifications

  • Graduate Diploma in Epidemiology, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of New England
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours)(Psychology), Macquarie University

Research

Research keywords

  • Attachment disorders
  • Developmental psychopathology
  • Foster care
  • Kinship care
  • Psychiatric Epidemiology
  • Social care policy

Research expertise

Overview

The inner world and subjective distress of children who have been harmed and emotionally deprived is mysterious and largely unknown. My journey towards understanding the minds of such children, as well as the causes of their psychic impairment, began in 1989, when I started to work as a child and family psychologist in child protection and alternate care. Aside from realising that working with such children was a great privilege, I was struck by the absence of empirical knowledge about their mental health and well-being of the lack of conceptual frameworks, of various phenomenological mysteries, and a reliance on non-standardised and subjective measurement tools. Few people in the world had researched these issues for maltreated children, and even fewer had looked in any detail at the problems of children in care. Over time I resolved to devote my lifes work to pursuing such research questions, and to develop more specific measurement tools, in the hope that this might lead to better prevention, identification and treatment of the psychological problems manifested by such children. I was also motivated by a strong intellectual curiosity. With this in mind I completed graduate training in psychiatric epidemiology, established a Psychologists Research group in the NSW Department of Community Services, and embarked on the Children in Care study.

Both the Children in Care study and the development of the Assessment Checklist for Children (see descriptions below) represent groundbreaking research in this specialised field. The findings from these studies are contributing to re-conceptualisation of the development and psychiatric problems of children in care. For example, patterns of aberrant eating behaviour have been identified for the first time in this population, leading to the proposal of a syndrome (termed Food Maintenance Syndrome). Some of the findings and theoretical formulations that have come from this research are published or submitted for publication (see publication list), while further research questions are to be addressed in a follow-up study (commencing later this year). With over half of the several hundred thousand children residing in long-term alternate care in the developed world estimated to have some form of psychiatric disturbance, my research program has major public health significance.

Research interests

  • Developmental psychopathology, with special interest in the epidemiology, phenomenology and determinants of psychopathology among maltreated children, and children in alternate care
  • Social policy for high-risk children (especially regarding primary prevention of psychopathology)
  • Measurement and screening of mental health problems and attachment difficulties among children in care
  • Attachment disorders, and the spectrum of attachment difficulties
  • Significance of loss and disrupted attachments among maltreated children entering care
  • Mental health of inter-country adoptees
  • Mental health of indigenous children
  • The mental health and wellbeing of children in rural and remote communities
  • Teaching health equity
  • Remote problem-based learning

Research skills / experience

  • Large-scale epidemiological research
  • Test development, psychometrics, mental health screening
  • Phenomenological investigations and enquiry
  • Qualitative methods
  • Data analysis (STATA) and database management
  • Meta-analysis and clinical reviews

Fields of Research

CodeDescriptionPercentage
170100Psychology50
169900Other Studies In Human Society30
111400Paediatrics And Reproductive Medicine20

Memberships

Body relevant to professional practice.

  • Member - Australian Psychological Society
  • Full Member - Australian Psychological Society

Committee/Associations (relevant to research).

  • Trustee - Cholmondeley Children's Home, Christchurch
  • Member - Member of the Research Advisory Committee, Life Without Barriers Fostering Service

Editorial Board.

  • Member - Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Appointments

British Academy Visiting Fellow
The British Academy (United Kingdom)
01/04/2009 - 01/12/2009
Visiting Research Fellow
for Policy Studies, University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
01/05/2009 - 01/05/2010
Senior Lecturer (Above the Bar) in Child and Family Psychology
University of Canterbury, NZ (New Zealand)
01/01/2009
Deputy Director of Health Sciences
University of Canterbury, NZ (New Zealand)
01/01/2008
Conjoint Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry
University of Newcastle (Australia)
01/01/2006

Invitations

Tarren-Sweeney, M. Out-of-Home Care Outcomes for Children What works best? Seminar presentation for the NSW Department of Community Services, Sydney June 30, 2005
NSW Department of Community Services, Australia (Conference Presentation - non published.)
2005
Tarren-Sweeney, M. Assessment of Children in Care. Invited presentation at Clinical and Psychometric Assessment in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Practice conference
Sydney University, Australia (Conference Presentation - non published.)
2004

Administrative

Administrative expertise

University of Newcastle

2004 - 2005 Member of the Medical School Executive

2003 - 2006 Director of Health Equity training, responsible for academic supervision of six academic stream coordinators within the Health Equity Selective

2003 - 2006 Member of the Bachelor of Medicine Program Committee

University of Canterbury

2006 - present Acting Programme Director, Postgraduate Child and Family Psychology programme

2007 - present Coordinator of Postgraduate Studies, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

2006 - present Chair of the Postgraduate Examination Committee, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

2006 - present Privacy officer, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

2007 - present Standing Faculty representative on the Academic Appeals Committee

Course co-ordination

University of Newcastle

1996 - 2006 MEDI6190 Psychiatric Epidemiology (Postgraduate)

2004 - 2006 MEDI6290 Psychological Solutions (Postgraduate)

2003 - 2006 MEDI3014 Health Equity Selective (Year 3, Bachelor of Medicine)

2001 - 2006 Coordination and delivery of all Psychiatry training in Year 3 of the medical degree

University of Canterbury

2006 - present EDUC623 Professional development in Child and Family Psychology (Practicum year)

EDUC624 Child and Family Psychology practicum (Practicum year)

EDUC501 Advanced academic development (Internship year)

EDUC502 Advanced professional practice in Child and Family Psychology (Internship year)

EDUC503 Structuring and examining professional practice (Internship year)

2007 EDUC616 Applied Developmental and Paediatric Psychology (Foundation year - co-coordinator)

Research management

1997 - ongoing Chief investigator of the Children in Care Study. (Recruited and supervised three research staff)

1999 - 2000 Project manager of the Disruptive Behaviour Study (Recruited and supervised seven research staff)

Teaching

Teaching keywords

  • Development of multidisciplinary mental health learning modules
  • Ecological analysis and complex formulations
  • Health Equity Training in Medicine
  • Problem-based learning for trainee Psychologists
  • Professional training in Child and Family Psychology

Teaching expertise

University of Canterbury

2006 - Engaged to teach in the Master of Education (Child and Family Psychology) and Post-Grad Diploma in Child and Family Psychology. Lecturing in the practicum and internship years.

Practicum Year: Professional Development in C+F Psychology

C+F Psychology Practicum

Internship Year: Advanced Academic Development

Advanced Professional Practice

Structuring and Examining Professional Practice

2006 - 2007 Supervision of 5 Masters research theses and dissertations

University of Newcastle

1996 - 2005 MEDI6190 Psychiatric Epidemiology

Postgraduate 1 semester course. Initially internal, later distance learning

Elective for postgraduate programs in Population Health (Clinical epidemiology, Health Social Science, etc), Drug and Alcohol Studies, Nursing and Psychology.

2004 - 2005 MEDI6290 Psychological Solutions

Postgraduate, 1 semester course by distance learning. Elective for postgraduate programs in Population Health (Clinical epidemiology, Health Social Science, etc), Drug and Alcohol Studies, Nursing and Psychology

2003 - 2006 MEDI3014 Health Equity Selective

Year 3, Bachelor of Medicine. Offered four times a year. Innovative approach to medical education, replacing the traditional clinical health elective. Students focus on social disadvantage, access to care, and health inequity. Consists of a common week of teaching and an eight-week health equity field placement in one of eight streams: Aged and Community Care; Indigenous health (mostly in remote Aboriginal communities); Global Health (in developing countries); Rural Health (with rural physicians); Mental Health; Child Health; Prison Health; and Drug and Alcohol health.

2001 - 2006 Coordination and delivery of all Psychiatry training in Year 3 of the medical degree

2001 - 2005 Supervision of mental health clinical reviews by Year 3 medical students (NUGGETS)

2005 Problem-Based Learning Tutor for Year 2 medical students

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Highlighted Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2006Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Hazell P, 'Mental health of children in foster and kinship care in New South Wales, Australia', Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 42 89-97 (2006) [C1]
2008Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Retrospective and concurrent predictors of the mental health of children in care', Children and Youth Services Review, 30 1-25 (2008) [C1]
2007Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'The Assessment Checklist for Children - ACC: A behavioral rating scale for children in foster, kinship and residential care', Children and Youth Services Review, 29 672-691 (2007) [C1]

Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Click on a category title below to expand the list of citations for that specific category.

Chapter (2 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2011France K, Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Preparing psychologists to work within the Family Court', Psychology and the Law in Aotearoa New Zealand, The New Zealand Psychological Society, Wellington, NZ 95-108 (2011) [B2]
2007France K, Annan J, Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Butler H, 'Beyond educational and clinical psychology: working with children, families and the agencies that care for them', Professional Practice of Psychology in Aotearoa New Zealand, The New Zealand Psychological Society Inc., Wellington, NZ 467-485 (2007) [B2]

Journal article (24 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2011Murray L, Tarren-Sweeney MJ, France K, 'Foster carer perceptions of support and training in the context of high burden of care', Child and Family Social Work, 16 149-158 (2011) [C1]
2010Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'It's time to re-think mental health services for children in care, and those adopted from care', Clinical Child Psychology Psychiatry, 15 613-626 (2010) [C1]
2010Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'An exploratory investigation of abnormal pain response among preadolescent children in foster care', Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 15 65-79 (2010) [C1]
2010Liberty KA, Pattermore P, Reid J, Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Beginning school with asthma independently predicts low achievement in a prospective cohort of children', Chest, 138 1349-1355 (2010) [C1]
2010Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Concordance of mental health impairment and service utilization among children in care', Clinical Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 15 481-495 (2010) [C1]
2010Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Vetere A, 'Special Issue Editors: Mental health services for children in care, and those adopted from care', Clinical Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 15 (2010) [C2]
2008Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Retrospective and concurrent predictors of the mental health of children in care', Children and Youth Services Review, 30 1-25 (2008) [C1]
2008Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Predictors of problematic sexual behavior among children with complex maltreatment histories', Child Maltreatment, 13 182-198 (2008) [C1]
2008Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'The mental health of children in out-of-home care', Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 21 345-349 (2008) [C1]
2007Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'The Assessment Checklist for Children - ACC: A behavioral rating scale for children in foster, kinship and residential care', Children and Youth Services Review, 29 672-691 (2007) [C1]
2007Tarren-Sweeney M, 'Review of the lives of foster carers', Public Restrictions Child and Family Social Work, 12 (2007) [C3]
2006Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Hazell P, 'Mental health of children in foster and kinship care in New South Wales, Australia', Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 42 89-97 (2006) [C1]
2006Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Patterns of Aberrant Eating Among Pre-adolescent Children in Foster Care', Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34 621-632 (2006) [C1]
2006Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Promoting the emotional well-being of children and adolescents and preventing their mental ill health: A handbook (book review)', Children and Youth Services Review, 28 587-589 (2006) [C3]
2005Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Hazell P, 'The mental health and socialization of siblings in care', Children and Youth Services Review, 27 821-843 (2005) [C1]
2004Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Carr VJ, 'Principles for development of multi-disciplinary, mental health learning modules for undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education', Education Health, 17 204-212 (2004) [C1]
2004Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Hazell P, Carr VJ, 'Are foster parents reliable informants of children's behaviour problems?', Child: Care, Health and Development, 30 167-175 (2004) [C1]
2003Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Hazell P, Callan K, Vimpani GV, Keatinge DR, 'Parent-nominated priorities for delivery of educational services to children with disruptive behavior', Journal of International Special Needs Education, 6 21-27 (2003) [C2]

Co-authors: Diana Keatinge

2003Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Parental Substance Misuse and Child Welfare [book review]', Drug and Alcohol Review, 22 478 (2003) [C3]
2002Tarren-Sweeney M, Hazell P, Vimpani G, Keatinge DR, Callan K, 'The service needs of families caring for preschool-aged children with disruptive behaviours', The Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 27, No 1 39-45 (2002) [C1]

Co-authors: Diana Keatinge

2002Hazell P, Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Vimpani GV, Keatinge D, Callan K, 'Children with disruptive behaviours I: Service utilization', Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 38 27-31 (2002) [C1]
2002Hazell P, Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Vimpani GV, Keatinge D, Callan K, 'Children with disruptive behaviours II: Clinical and community service needs', Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 38 32-40 (2002) [C1]
2002Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Drugs and Your Teenager: a practical guide for Australian parents [book review]', Drug and Alcohol Review, 21 308 (2002) [C3]
2000Keatinge DR, Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Vimpani GV, Hazell P, Callan K, 'Identifying service needs of children with disruptive behavior problems using a Nominal Group Technique', Nursing and Health sciences, 2 179-189 (2000) [C1]

Co-authors: Diana Keatinge

Show 21 more

Conference (12 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2010Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'The psychosocial effects of impermanent, non-institutional care - A conceptual framework for future research', 3rd International Conference on Adoption Research (ICAR3). Posters, Leiden, The Netherlands (2010) [E3]
2010Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Assessment of complex and severe mental health difficulties among children adopted from care, with particular reference to the Assessment Checklist for Children', 3rd International Conference on Adoption Research (ICAR3), Leiden, The Netherlands (2010) [E3]
2010Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'It's time to re-think mental health services for children in care, and those adopted from care', Australian Child Welfare Association (ACWA) Conference. Programme, Sydney, NSW (2010) [E3]
2009France K, Butler H, Tarren-Sweeney M, 'Family Matters: Are we there yet guys? Conflict, process, resolution (?) in training New Zealand Psychologists to work with families', Presentation to the Annual Conference of the New Zealand Psychological Society, Palmerston North, New Zealand (2009) [E3]
2009Tarren-Sweeney M, 'Attachment- and trauma-related psychopathology among children in alternate care' (2009) [E3]
2009Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Attachment and trauma-related psychopathology among children in alternate care', Child2009: Programme, Queenstown, NZ (2009) [E3]
2008Tarren-Sweeney MJ, 'Could sexual behaviour problems be manifestations of disordered or disorganizes attachment among maltreated pre-adolescent children', Annual Conference of the New Zealand Psychological Society Programme & Abstracts, Christchurch, NZ (2008) [E3]
2005Kelly BJ, Stain HJ, Carr V, Beard J, Fragar L, Lyle D, et al., 'Living in a rural community: Determinants and consequences of mental health and wellbeing', Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Sydney, NSW (2005) [E3]
2004Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Hazell P, 'The development and factor structure of the Assessment Checklist for Children (ACC): A rating scale of psychiatric problems specific to children in foster care', Book of Abstracts of the 16th World Congress of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP), Berlin, Germany (2004) [E3]
2003Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Hazell P, 'Development of the assessment checklist for children (ACC): A psychiatric rating scale for children in care', ASPR Conference 2003: Origins of Psychopathology: Programme and Abstracts, Christchurch, NZ (2003) [E3]
2003Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Hazell P, 'The mental health of children in long-term foster and kinship care in NSW (The Children in Care Study)', ASPR Conference 2003: Origins of Psychopathology: Programme and Abstracts, Christchurch, NZ (2003) [E3]
2003Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Carr VJ, 'Principles for development of multi-disciplinary mental health learning modules for undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education', Towards Equity in Education, Training and Health Care Delivery, Newcastle, NSW (2003) [E3]
Show 9 more

Report (1 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
1997Tarren-Sweeney MJ, Hazell P, Carr V, Tadele G, 'Report of the pilot stage of the Children in Care Study: Technical report to the NSW Department of Community Services', University of Newcastle (1997) [R1]

Thesis / Dissertation (1 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2005Tarren-Sweeney M, The Children in Care Study: an epidemiological study of the mental health of children in foster and kinship care, and associated risk factors, (2005) [T3]
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants9
Total funding$777,971

- Indicates that the researcher may be seeking students for this project.

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.

2010 (1 grants)

International Conference on Adoption Research (ICAR3), University of Leiden, The Netherlands, 11 - 15 July 2010$2,000
Funding Body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Health

Project Team
Conjoint Associate Professor Michael Tarren-Sweeney
SchemeRole
Travel GrantChief Investigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish
$2,00020102010
GNo:G1000432

2009 (1 grants)

The Children in Care Study - Stage 4$9,600
Funding Body: NSW Department of Community Services

Project Team
Conjoint Associate Professor Michael Tarren-Sweeney
SchemeRole
Research GrantChief Investigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish
$9,60020092012
GNo:G0189925

2007 (2 grants)

Living in a rural community: Determinants and consequences of mental health and wellbeing$717,750
Funding Body: National Health & Medical Research Council

SchemeRole
Investigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish
$717,75020072007
GNo:18069660

Criterion-referenced validation of the Assessment Checklist for Children (ACC): Ability to differentiate 5-11 year-old children in long-term foster care from same-aged children at large$10,000
Funding Body: University of Canterbury

SchemeRole
University research grantChief Investigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish
$10,00020072007
GNo:18069681

2004 (2 grants)

The 16th World Congress of the Int Assoc for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry & Allied Professions (IACAPAP), 22-26 August 2004, Germany$2,400
Funding Body: University of Newcastle

Project Team
Conjoint Associate Professor Michael Tarren-Sweeney
SchemeRole
Travel GrantChief Investigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish
$2,40020042004
GNo:G0184486

Rural community database for mental health research $0
Funding Body: University of Newcastle

SchemeRole
University of Newcastle Research Infrastructure GrantInvestigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish
$020042007
GNo:18069705

2003 (1 grants)

The Network:Towards Unity fir Health International Conference 'Towards Equity in Education, Service and Health Care Delivery.' Newcastle 11-15 October 2003$310
Funding Body: University of Newcastle

Project Team
Conjoint Associate Professor Michael Tarren-Sweeney
SchemeRole
Travel GrantChief Investigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish
$31020032003
GNo:G0183318

2000 (1 grants)

The Children in Care Study$27,911
Funding Body: NSW Department of Community Services

Project Team
Conjoint Associate Professor Michael Tarren-Sweeney
SchemeRole
Research GrantChief Investigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish
$27,91120002000
GNo:G0178693

1996 (1 grants)

A prospective study of mental health outcomes and associated risk factors, for children in foster care.$8,000
Funding Body: University of Newcastle

Project Team
Conjoint Professor Vaughan Carr, Conjoint Professor Philip Hazell, Conjoint Associate Professor Michael Tarren-Sweeney
SchemeRole
Project GrantInvestigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish
$8,00019961996
GNo:G0175674
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Research Supervision

Number of current supervisions4

For supervisions undertaken at an institution other that the University of Newcastle, the institution name is listed below the program name.

Current Supervision

CommencedProposed
Completion
ProgramSupervisor TypeResearch Title
20082009Masters Psychology
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Principal SupervisorFoster and kinship (whanau) caregiver perceptions of contact between children in care and their birth parents
20082009Masters Psychology
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Principal SupervisorAnalysis of qualitative responses to a national survey of parents of children with Downs Syndrome
20082009Masters Psychology
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Co-SupervisorDevelopment of an emotion knowledge intervention for treatment of disruptive behaviour among pre-school aged children.
20072010PHD Education Studies
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Co-SupervisorThe prevalence of anti-social behaviour among children in Canterbury-region primary schools

Past Supervision

YearProgramSupervisor TypeResearch Title
2008Masters Psychology
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Principal SupervisorTherapeutic and support service provision for children with dual intellectual disability and emotional and/or behavioural difficulties in Christchurch, New Zealand
2008Masters Psychology
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Principal SupervisorFamilies experiences of short-term residential respite care for children.
2008Masters Psychology
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Co-Supervisor
2008Masters Psychology
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Co-SupervisorFunctional asthma severity and impulsive behaviour in 6 and 7 year old children
2007Masters Psychology
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Principal SupervisorPerceived training and service needs of foster parents in Christchurch
2007Masters Psychology
University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Co-SupervisorRelationships between children's anxiety symptoms and asthma symptoms
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Conjoint Associate Professor Michael Tarren-Sweeney

Work Phone+64 3 3642 418
Email
PositionConjoint Associate Professor
School of Medicine and Public Health
Faculty of Health and Medicine
The University of Newcastle, Australia
Office
University of Canterbury,
Other
URL:www.newcastle.edu.au/profile/michael-tarrensweeney