Lakshmi Neelakantan (PhD student)

Thesis title: Understanding young people’s experiences of the ISPCAN Child Abuse Screening Tool (ICAST-C): An investigation in Romania, South Africa, and the Philippines


Lakshmi is a 3rd year PhD Candidate at the Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh. Her PhD research explores the experiences of adolescents with regards to answering questions on the ISPCAN's Child Abuse Screening Tools in multiple contexts, namely Romania, South Africa, and the Philippines. This research may be used for development and cross-cultural adaptation of self-report child abuse measures. She is supervised by Dr. Franziska Meinck, Dr. Deborah Fry, and Prof. Lani Florian at the University of Edinburgh. Lakshmi's research is fully funded by the Principal's Career Development Scholarship and Edinburgh Global Research Scholarships. Her research is also funded by an ESRC Future Leaders Grant awarded to Dr. Franziska Meinck, for the development and testing of global child abuse measures. She is involved as part of a larger project undertaking a systematic review on the psychometric properties of self-report child abuse measures. Lakshmi's research interests lie in violence against children, parenting interventions, prevention science, and evidence-based approaches to global child welfare and protection. She is also interested in mixed-methods and qualitative approaches in public health, more broadly. 

Lakshmi holds an MSc in Evidence-based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation from the University of Oxford where she studied as a Chevening scholar. She also holds dual bachelor's degrees in Law and Liberal Arts from the National Law University, Jodhpur (India). She has previously worked with Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) on a randomised controlled trial testing the effectiveness of a nutrition intervention in Tamil Nadu, India. She is also a qualified lawyer with several years of experience in international economic law. Lakshmi is actively engaged in co-curricular discussions and seminars, and has set up the Child Protection Discussion Group at Moray House. Her teaching experience includes tutoring postgraduate students on the Foundations of International Child Protection course.


MSc Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation, University of Oxford, UK (2015-16)

BA LLB (International Trade Hons.), National Law University Jodhpur, India (2008-13)

Responsibilities & affiliations

Research Cluster: Equality, Social Justice and Inclusion

Institute for Education, Community and Society (IECS), Moray House

Member of International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN)

Scholarship awards

Principal's Career Development PhD Scholarship; Edinburgh Global Research Scholarship; Chevening Scholarship for Master's Degree

Postgraduate teaching

Teaching Assistant, Foundations of International Child Protection, Masters-level course, University of Edinburgh.

Research summary

Physical, emotional and sexual child abuse; Risk factors for child abuse; Vulnerable children; Parenting interventions; Research in Low and Middle Income contexts; Evidence-based approaches; Mental health

Current research interests

Measurement of child abuse; validity of self-report child abuse measures; cognitive interviewing; qualitative research

Current project grants

Principal's Career Development Scholarship, University of Edinburgh, covering UK/EU fees and a living stipend, approx. £56,481

Edinburgh Global Research Scholarship, University of Edinburgh, covering difference between UK/EU and International fees, approx. £31, 215

Fieldwork Costs, ESRC Future Leaders Grant (PI: Dr. Franziska Meinck), approx. £10,000

Past project grants

Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Chevening scholarship: full funding to pursue graduate study at University of Oxford, approx. £34,357


Interweaving Conference, Moray House School of Education & Sport, University of Edinburgh, Oct. 2019


Adolescents’ Experiences of Answering Questions on Violence: Findings from Romania and South Africa. SVRI Forum, October 2019. Cape Town, South Africa. Science pitch presentation.

Adolescents’ Views of the ICAST-C. ISPCAN Annual Congress, September 2019. Muscat, Oman. Paper Presentation.

Best Poster Award, Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference, September 2019. University of Stirling.