Professor M Catherine Maternowska

Professor of Violence Prevention for Young People


Dr M Catherine Maternowska, Professor of Violence Prevention for Young People  at the University of Edinburgh. I bring three decades of field-based research and programming spanning the Americas, Africa and Asia focusing on violence prevention and response, gender equity, and sexual and reproductive health.  Trained in economics, public health, and medical anthropology, I use mixed methodology approaches to achieve improved outcomes.   I have published dozens of policy-influencing peer review articles on gender-related issues and violence prevention, a book Reproducing Inequities: Poverty and the Politics of Population in Haiti and have been featured in the popular press on public health and children's issues.  My most recent work addresses violence prevention and the online-offline continuum. I held a faculty position at the University of California, San Francisco for ten years working in Haiti, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Kenya.  From 2012-2017, I worked for UNICEF--Office of Research-Innocenti leading the Multi-Country Study on the Drivers of Violence which was subsequently replicated in twenty-three countries globally. From 2017-2021, I led Data, Evidence & Learning at the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. I have a a PhD from Columbia University, in New York City, a MPH from the University of Michigan and BSc (Econ) from the London School of Economics.

At the University of Edinburgh I am co-leading the demand-driven Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Solutions Hub with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative, Together for Girls and the WeProtect Global Alliance , a global $4.5 million, 4-year initiative. We work on generating and curating data and evidence,  exchanging knowledge directly with stakeholders to co-create useful products and then mobilising the evidence-and practice-based knowledge to create sustainable change. As the PI of this project, I am continuously working on innovative methodologies around measuring impact.  My current research interests include stigma, disclosure and help seeking, collective rhythmic drumming as a therapeutic agent for high-risk adolescents and a growing interest in children, young people and the climate--as a structural form of violence.  All of my work is applied and designed to improve prevention, healing and justice through improved policy and practice. Likewise, all of my practice is grounded in public health, leveraging the strength of cross-discipline approaches.  

I sit as an active member of several global advisory boards addressing data, research, and movement building listed below as external partners.  


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Responsibilities & affiliations

Co-Editor in Chief, Child Protection and Practice, a new international journal bringing together research and practice insights to inform, develop, and support the needs of governments, non-governmental organisations and the wider civil society to promote and support healthy families and communities and to keep children keeping safe from violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect.

At the University of Edinburgh Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology: Affiliate | Usher Institute: Affiliate

Globally Our Voices University Network: Leadership Team, University of Bedfordshire | Brave Movement: Global Steering Group, Together for Girls  |  INSPIRE Working Group for the Global Guidelines for Violence Prevention, WHO | Disrupting Harm, Advisory Board

Postgraduate teaching

I am available to guest lecture, please contact me. 

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised

Rimin Johnson 

Research summary

For nearly 30 years I have been researching gender and forms of violence inflicted on women and children globally. This work is based on the structural determinants of health and steeped in political economy analyses. While a local, community focus is important, so too is a systems approach, characterized by feedback loops and discontinuous change that is rarely in straight lines. Systems—such as child protection systems—change according to their history—path dependence is everywhere; systems are inherently complex and their impact on young people is determined by social and political processes. It is this kind of politics in public health (and its nexus with practice in the field) that frames most of my work.  

I have a strong interest in violence prevention and response and testing whether models of delivery to children and young people are effective.  Within this interest are innovative ways of measuring—using mixed methods—and including the development of indicators and evaluations that look at behavioural change and much as social change.  I am interested in debates around epistemologies and power/knowledge, research techniques that capture these constructs and different models of development that are directly confront inequalities for the marginalized. Along these lines, I am co-supporting a Sexual Violence in Childhood Solutions Hub-- a dynamic practitioner-centred platform to build, transform and mobilise knowledge to end childhood sexual violence globally. The initiative addresses global inequalities between high income countries and low- and middle-income countries in both knowledge production and exchange.

Current research interests

• Drivers of Violence: I have co-produced around the drivers of violence (the conditions in which violence occurs) and how stakeholders can best respond to it.. This work remains fundamental to my research agenda and builds on the social determinants and the political economy of health. • Child sexual abuse: Sexual abuse is among the most egregious types of abuse and is often tied to other types of abuse including physical and emotional abuse. I am currently PI and co-Director to the CSEA Solutions Hub unique community and space where stakeholders in the CSEA prevention field can access, debate, create and use solution-based products based on high quality evidence and practice. • Stigma, disclosure and help seeking: Global baseline data suggests that rates of disclosure around violence against children are low and rates of help-seeking even lower -- with fewer than 5% of all children globally accessing the services they need. With teams in Colombia and Kenya we are building a prevention agenda that addresses this issue, focusing related social and gender norms interventions. • Children, young people and the climate: I consider climate structural from of violence. The climate crisis is recognised as the greatest threat to health and wellbeing and likely the defining human and child rights challenge of our generation. This new area of enquiry builds on my previous work around the drivers of violence. I am keen to understand intergenerational responses to the crisis and to co-create solutions that make sense to those affected. • Collective Rhythmic Drumming as a Therapeutic Agent for At-Risk Adolescents The aim of this project is to build a network of like-minded thinkers committed to addressing trauma in young people through a scientific and creative arts approach. Bringing together researchers and practitioners from the fields of neuroscience, violence prevention & response, music, education, and drumming, at this early stage, the research question would be: What do we know from a trans-disciplinary lens about drumming as a therapeutic agent for trauma, and what would an intervention to test this idea look like?

Past research interests

• Sexual and reproductive health; emergency obstetric care including safe abortions (Haiti, Kenya and Zimbabwe) • Studies of gender, power and culture (USA and Mexico) • Adolescent girls and HIV (Zimbabwe)

Knowledge exchange

I am an applied researcher and everything I study, or support, is intended to create change from the level of the community where practice is implemented to the corridors of power where policy is made (and sometimes implemented). All my previous research studies can trace ways that the research itself contributed to change. Impact in the field of gender norms and violence prevention happens in incremental ways which is why measuring change is so fundamental to my research practice. In several countries around the world, I can demonstrate how there have been shifts in social norms, shifts in capacity, an expanding base of support, strong alliances and improved policies.

I have run dozens of multi-sectoral courses focusing on leadership development with policy makers and with young people where knowledge can be shared across international borders. Knowledge exchange is at the heart of my current work on the Sexual Violence in Childhood Solutions Hub.

I am continuously working on innovative measures for research uptake, use and impact.

Current project grants

Childhood Sexual Violence Solutions Hub with core partner organisations total of $4.5 million over 4 years (2023-2026)--University of Edinburgh holds $1.2 million of this grant, where I serve as PI.

Past project grants

Binks Hub £7500 Collective Rhythmic Drumming as a Therapeutic Agent for High Risk Adolescents