Professor Joanne Williams

Professor of Applied Developmental Psychology

  • Centre for Applied Developmental Psychology
  • Children, Adolescents and Animals Research (CAAR)

Contact details



Room 2.4, Doorway 6, Medical Quad, Teviot Place

Post code


I am an applied developmental psychologist with research interests in child and adolescent health and mental health, the development of health concepts,  and children’s interactions with animals.

My career at The University of  Edinburgh began in 1993 as a post-doctoral research fellow examining psychological factors associated with child and adolescent injuries. In 1996, I took a two-year lectureship in Psychology, and from 1998 to 2012 I was Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Psychology, in Moray House School of Education.

Since 2012 I have been Senior Lecturer/Professor of Applied Developmental Psychology  in Clinical and Health Psychology.  I coordinate Children, Adolescents and Animals Research (caar), and am a member of Human-Animal Interaction Research. I  contribute developmental psychology teaching on a range of postgraduate programmes including the MSc Psychology of Mental Health (Conversion).

I am a Board member for the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) and led the organising committee for ISAZ 2023, which was in Edinburgh. I am also a member of the SCAS Mental Health Working Group.

Postgraduate teaching

  • Developmental Psychology and Developmental Psychopathology
  • PhD and MSc research supervision

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I am always interested to hear from students wishing to pursue research degrees. I am particularly interested to work with students on the role of animals in children’s development and mental health, animal-assisted therapies for children and adolescents, and psychological factors in child and adolescent cruelty to animals.  Please also contact me if you wish to research children’s understanding of mental health/illness or evaluate psycho-education interventions. Below I have listed my students along with the themes of their PhDs.

Current PhD students supervised

I am fortunate to have excellent PhD students. I list my current students and their broad topics below:

Amber Ramos (Human-animal interaction with military marine mammals)

Rowena Piers (Digital mental health interventions for adolescents)

Peilin (Ruby) Lin (Gardening and mental health in Chinese older adults)

Xiaoshan (Sylph) Yin (Pet effects in Chinese adolescents and emerging adults)

Hamdulla Tunc (Values and mental health in adolescents)

Isobel Voysey (Zoomorphic robots for childhood animal cruelty prevention)

Liron Blajwajs (Joint hypermobility in adolescent dancers)

Katie Baynham (Adolescent mental health and pets)

Suzanne Lawrie (Evaluation of RSPCA 'Breaking the Chain' intervention)

Rea Michalopoulou (Children's understanding of Covid-19 and VR interventions)

Rina De Luna (Farm animal welfare in the Philippines)

Past PhD students supervised

I have been fortunate to work with some brilliant PhD students in the past who have all been awarded their PhDs and gone on to amazing careers. Below I list them and their board topics:

Dr Lynne Binnie (Childhood neurodiversity and biology and physics concepts)

Dr Lesley Smith (Children's and adolescents' understandings of disabilities)

Dr Diana Gossrau (Adolescent substance use)

Dr Katherine Myant (Children's and adolescents' understandings of illness)

Dr Ai Keow Lim (Theory of Mind and Pretend play in pre-schoolers)

Dr Monica Odinko (Pre-school education in Nigeria)

Dr Lynsey Burke (Children's thinking skills)

Dr Dia (Daisy) Qian (British-born Chinese children's identity development)

Dr Jennifer van Bekkum (Cycling Behaviour)

Dr Julie Moote (Children's self-regulated learning in science)

Dr Jia (Ava) Guo (Adolescent development in China)

Dr Elpida Pavlidou (Developmental dyslexia and implicit grammar learning)

Dr Carol Thompson (Farmers welfare beliefs and behaviour)

Dr Nikki Georgakakou-Koustonikuo (Children's and adolescents' understandings of depression)

Dr Susannah Johnston (Adolescent perfectionism and mental health)

Dr Siti Norhedayah Abdul Latif (Social, emotional and behavioural issues among adolescents in Brunei)

Dr Kiyoshi Nasir Bhuiyan (Autisitic children's interactions with tablets) 

Dr Loukia Bololia (Autistic adolescents and drama therapy)

Dr Roxanne Hawkins (Animal welfare education for children)

Dr Ho Nam (Amy) Cheung (Depression in China)

Dr Jingni Ma (Nature-based interventions for mental health)

Dr Hasan Huseyin Ates (Eating disorders, disordered eating and neurodivergence) 

Dr Unaiza Iqbal (Pets and vulnerable children)

Dr Laura Wauthier (Evaluation of Scottish SPCA 'Animal Guardians' programme)



Research summary

Research Interests

  • Child and adolescent health and mental health
  • Children’s and adolescents’ interactions with animals 
  • Psychological impacts of pets
  • Children’s understandings of mind, body and mental health

Research Centre

Research Themes

Knowledge exchange

I have won a series of research impact awards, including: 

ESRC Impact Accelerator Award: Breaking the cycle of cruelty and harm: Promoting positive interactions between children and animals through impactful research


Affiliated research centres

Research activities

View all 13 activities on Research Explorer

View all 100 publications on Research Explorer