Dr Marlies Kustatscher

Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies


  • PhD (University of Edinburgh)
  • MSc (University of Edinburgh), Counselling Studies
  • BA (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy), Social Work

Responsibilities & affiliations

I am a member of the Children and Young People Thematic Hub and Childhood and Youth Studies Research Group.  

I am a member of the Race and Inclusivity in Global Education Network (RIGEN) and the RACE.ED Steering Group.

I am an affiliate of the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) and an associate researcher at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR).

Undergraduate teaching

I teach in the areas of

  • children's health and well-being, social determinants of health
  • children, education and social justice 
  • child and family sociology 
  • childhood practice research and ethics 

From 2016 - 2021, I have been the Programme Director of the BA Childhood Practice.

Postgraduate teaching

I teach in the areas of 

  • research with children, methods and epistemologies
  • social justice and intersectionality

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I would be happy to supervise students in the areas of my research interests (please see below). 

Current PhD students supervised

Fatemeh Sadeghi: Developing a socially and culturally compatible ECE curriculum in Iran

Xuanyi Ren: The understandings and practices of Chinese young people's participation in the context of boarding schools

Tao Liu: Children's rights education in Scotland

Priyambada Seal: How the climate crisis affects girls' right to education in India


Past PhD students supervised

Serif Ali Cakiray: The experiences of disabled refugee children in Scottish mainstream education

Gizem Silistire: Constructions of childhood during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland

Brendan Kwaitkowski: Healthy Masculinity and Adolescence: Resilience to Restrictive Masculinity

Fatma Büşra Aksoy Kumru:  Active citizenship in the early years: listening to children on decision-making

Min Kyung Kwon:  What are the perspectives of South Korean secondary school students on  current sex education?

Liz Latto: Professional Working Relationships within Local Authority Early Learning and Childcare settings during the Expansion Process

George Low: Where Are All the Disabled Musicians? An Exploration of the Attitudinal and Physical Barriers that Impact on the Identities and Lived Experiences of Musicians With a Physical Impairment

Jane Malcolm: Love, Passion and Professionalism: The Early Years Lead Professional (MPhil)

Shu Li:  Chinese Parents’ Effective Involvement in Early Childhood Education – A Comparative Study (MRes) 

Research summary

  • Intersectionality and childhood and youth
  • Interdisciplinary, arts-based approaches to activism and change
  • Childhood, emotions and activism
  • Children’s rights and participation in research, policy and practice
  • Ethical issues in research with children

Knowledge exchange

College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Award for Excellence in External Engagement 2016

Together with Dr Kristina Konstantoni I have been awarded a 'College Recognition Award for Excellence in External Engagement' for our collaborative work of engaging with external stakeholders in the field of childhood and youth inequalities. 

Please see under 'Projects' below for more information on knowledge exchange activities.

Project activity

Sonic Engagement: Connecting with Research Audiences Through Sound Art (2024) (PI). MHSES Innovation Fund. With Alan Brown (artist), Dr Edwar Calderon (Queens University Belfast), Juan Manuel Gomez (Mr Klaje Innovaser Collective).  What is the potential of sound art to engage communities and audiences with research findings? How and where can sound art be designed and installed to engage people in affective, unexpected, impactful ways – beyond verbal/linguistic forms of communication? What can be learned about the broader role of sound and sound art for practices of solidarity, resistance and social transformation?


The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Delivery of Education to Children Under Five (PI).  Desk-based research commissioned by the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry.  Co-Is Juliet Hancock, Annie Taylor, Gillean McCluskey, Kay Tisdall.


 Turning the page: youth engagement and policy impact through arts and music with public libraries in Cali (2023) (PI). UoE ODA Impact and Development Funding (£29,980). Co-Is: Professor Kay Tisdall, Dr Edwar Calderon, Juan Manuel Gomez (Mr Klaje Collective).  


Towards sustainable futures: developing social entrepreneurship with Afrocolombian and indigenous young people in Colombia (2022) (PI). University of Edinburgh CAHSS KEI Fund (£4,970). Co-Is: Professor Kay Tisdall, Dr Edwar Calderon, Tony Evanko (Fundación Casa Tres Patios), Juan Manuel Gomez (Mr Klaje Collective).  


Promoting youth-led social entrepreneurship in partnership with communities and civil society organisations (2022) (PI). Changing the Story Follow-on Funding (£25,000). Co-Is: Dr Edwar Alexis Calderon, Professor Kay Tisdall, Tony Evanko (Fundación Casa Tres Patios), Juan Manuel Gomez (Mr Klaje Collective).  


Co-creating a social enterprise pilot with marginalised Afrocolombian and Indigenous young people in the Colombian Pacific (2021) (PI). University's Scottish Funding Council GCRF Global Impact Accelerator (£32,000). Co-Is: Dr Edwar Alexis Calderon, Professor Kay Tisdall, Tony Evanko (Fundación Casa Tres Patios), Juan Manuel Gomez (Mr Klaje Collective). 


Amplificando las Voces: Consolidation of Changing the Story Projects in Latin America (2020-21) (Co-I). GCRF AHRC Changing the Story Learning Consolidation Grant. PI Dr Laura Taylor, Queens University Belfast. Knowledge exchange project bringing together learning from all Changing the Story LatAm projects. Project website: https://changingthestory.leeds.ac.uk/amplificando-las-voces-latin-america/ 


Cuál es la verdad? (What is the Truth?) De-constructing collective memories and imagining alternative futures with young people in Chocó through music and arts (2019-21) (PI).  GCRF AHRC Changing the Story Large Grant (£94,000).  Co-Is: Dr Edwar Alexis Calderon (Universidad Claretiana), Professor Kay Tisdall, Tony Evanko and Carolina Aristizabal (Fundación Casa Tres Patios), Juan Manuel Gomez (Mr Klaje Collective). 

This project focuses on Quibdó, the capital of Chocó in the Colombian Pacific: a remote area disproportionately affected by armed conflict and home to mainly Afro-colombian and indigenous populations who face a complex legacy of intersectional inequalities.  Our project responds to priorities identified by young people: tensions within and between neighbourhoods (barrios), violence and armed gangs, feelings of fear and distrust, through a co-produced music-and arts-based approach: with our CSO partners Fundación Casa Tres Patios and Mr Klaje Collective,  support 15-20 young co-researchers from three Quibdó barrios to facilitate workshops with other young people to critically deconstruct collective memories. This is achieved through a series of rotating workshops and performances that involve creating musical instruments from recycled materials, co-producing music about alternative futures, territorial mapping and sculpturing.  Project website: https://changingthestory.leeds.ac.uk/cual-es-la-verdad-colombia/


Education for climate justice: Centring social justice amidst demands to prioritise the climate crisis in education (2021) (Co-I). Scottish Universities Insight Institute Knowledge Exchange Funding (£15,000).  PI Callum McGregor with partners from University of Edinburgh, University of St Andrews/ Third Generation Project, Glasgow Caledonian University/ Centre for Climate Justice, SCOREscotland, Teach the Future Scotland, Learning for Sustainability Scotland. Project website: https://www.scottishinsight.ac.uk/Programmes/UNGlobalGoals/EducationforClimateJustice.aspx 


Froebel Trust Hub and Spoke Froebelian Futures Programme (2021-2024) (Co-I). Funded by Froebel Trust (£450,000). PI Dr Lynn McNair.  This international project sparks a long-term, national and international learning journey, spearheaded by early learning and childcare educators/practitioners as researchers and change-makers, to mainstream participatory and child-centred policies and practices, both locally and globally. This international project focuses on Scotland, Greece and the Czech Republic. 


Safe, Inclusive, Participative Pedagogy: Improving Early Childhood Education in Fragile Contexts (2020-2024) (Co-I).  Funded by UKRI ESRC GCRF (£1.8 mio). PI Prof Kay Tisdall, with partners from Brazil, Eswatini, South Africa, Palestine, an international research project which aims to identify and develop safe, inclusive participative pedagogy that is implementable in fragile contexts and sustainable for governments, communities and families. The project is undertaken with partners in Brazil, Eswatini, Palestine, South Africa, and Scotland using a mixed-method approach. This includes: qualitative community case studies in each country; policy and systems analysis at country and community levels; and developing the economic case for safe inclusive pedagogy. Community engagement and participation underpin the project, where children and their families play an integral role and there is a strong focus on knowledge exchange and collaborative learning. Project website here


The play-café project: What would Froebelian play cafés look like?(2021-2023)  (Co-I). Funded by the The Froebel Trust (£43,300). PI Dr Kristina  Konstantoni, Co-I Dr Lynn McNair and The Network for Children’s Rights (NGO, Greece).


Mentoring for success: Co-producing a meaningful workplace mentoring scheme with students and employers (2020-21) (PI). University of Edinburgh Principal's Teaching Award Scheme (PTAS) (£1,500). Co-Is Luke Addison, Kristina Konstantoni, Liz Latto, Lynn McNair, Maggie Morrison, Kay Tisdall and BA Childhood Practice student researchers Scott Craig, Ruta Kiaukaraite, Gillian Newall. 


‘Nosotros Chocó: Pasado y Futuro’ – Young people’s imagined futures in the Colombian Pacific.  (2019)  (PI).  Co-Is: Edwar Alexis Calderon, Juan Manuel Gomez, Manuel Beltran, Tony Evanko. University of Edinburgh Global Challenges Research Fund Travel & Partnerships Grant (£3,000). This project brought together researchers from three academic institutions (University of Edinburgh, Universidad EAFIT, Universidad Claretiana) and artists/educators from Fundación Casa Tres Patios and Mr Klaje Collective for research and partnership meetings and exploratory research workshops with approx. 20 young people from Afrocolombian and indigenous backgrounds in Quibdo, Choco, on their experiences and aspirations for their futures. 


'Activist arts and youth inequalities – exploring the potential of contemporary art for research impact and transformative change' (2017). (PI). Co-Is: Dr Jen Ross, Alan Brown (artist).  Seedcorn Funding (£1,468), Moray House School of Education

This project explored the potential of contemporary art (including conceptual or performance art) to disseminate research on children and young people’s experiences of inequalities, explore new practices of audience engagement and impact, and inspire transformative change. A one-day workshop brought together researchers, young people, Investing in Children (a children's human rights organisation), contemporary artists, and experts from arts organisations (Talbot Rice Gallery, National Galleries of Scotland, Collective Gallery) to discuss these questions.


'Creating transformative partnerships: Making spaces for tackling childhood and youth inequalities' (2015-17)

A participatory action research project with young people supported by Investing in Children. Funded by a Carnegie Research Incentive Grant (£7,500) and a University of Edinburgh CHSS Challenge Investment Fund (£13,785).  (Co-PI).  Dr Kristina Konstantoni (Co-PI) and Co-Is and academic advisors Dr Akwugo Emejulu, Prof John Davis, and Liam Cairns.

This interdisciplinary research project has been initiated by a group of ten young people (aged 10-18) and involves them as co-researchers in a small-scale participatory action research. The research seeks to examine a) young peoples’ views and experiences of intersectional discrimination in their schools and local communities and ways of tackling discriminatory practices, and b) the processes by which meaningful and transformative partnerships (between interdisciplinary researchers, young people, organisations and practitioners) can be established with the aim to effect change in the young people’s lives.

The project is located against the backdrop of an increased emphasis on questions of research impact and social change, and on children and young people’s participation in research, policy and practice, driven by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989). Participation is complex and the challenge is to ensure that it is meaningful, comprehensive and not tokenistic, and involves young people at all stages of a research project (from research design to analysis and dissemination). The project is particularly timely due to the multiple and intersecting experiences of discrimination that young people face in the current social and political climate of austerity, growing inequalities and rising anti-immigration sentiments.


'The World As We Feel It: Talking about emotions across the disciplines'  (2015-16) (Co-PI). Funded by a University of Edinburgh Academic Networking Fund (£3,140).  Dr Jessica MacLaren (Co-PI) and Professor Pam Smith (Co-PI)

A series of networking and knowledge exchange events with the aim of stimulating debates about the nature and working of emotions: are they cultural practices, neurochemical or psychosocial processes, or contagious algorithms? Speakers share different ways of conceptualising and researching emotions, and discuss their significance for shaping relationships, identities, inequalities, beliefs, aspirations, bodies, perceptions, health and wellbeing, policies, practices and institutions. More information on The World As We Feel It website.


'What next for Childhood Studies? Pushing boundaries' (2015-16) (Co-PI).  Funded by a BSA Early Career Forum Grant (£1,000).  Dr Kristina Konstantoni (Co-PI)

A one-day conference which sought to raise and debate questions about how the sociology of childhood can push its spatial and disciplinary boundaries in order to make important critical theoretical and methodological contributions not only within the childhood studies field but also beyond, for example to the wider discipline of sociology, feminist studies, geo-politics, education, economics, health and others: 

  • How can childhood researchers make critical connections and contributions across disciplinary and spatial boundaries?
  • How do debates in childhood research and current geo-political, economic and socio-cultural contexts mutually shape each other?
  • How can childhood studies commit to an emancipatory and activist agenda?
  • What is needed to push theoretical and methodological boundaries?


'Children's rights, social justice and social identities: intersections in research, policy and practice' (2013-15) Funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute (£20,000).  Co-I. Dr Kristina Konstantoni (PI), Co-Is: Prof. John Davis, University of Edinburgh, Dr Akwugo Emejulu, University of Edinburgh, Prof. Geri Smyth and Dr Daniela Sime, University of Strathclyde, Sheila Hamilton, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People and Alison Hosie, Scottish Human Rights Commission). This seminar series brought together children and young people, children's rights policymakers, practitioners and academics to develop new approaches to tackle children's intersecting inequalities in Scotland and beyond.


Exploring Young Children's Social Identities: Performing Social Class, Gender and Ethnicity in Primary School (2010-14) PhD research, funded by a Principal's Career Development Scholarship from the University of Edinburgh.

This research explored the role of social class, gender and ethnicity in 5-7 year-old children’s relationships in a Scottish primary school context. It investigates children’s intersecting social identities in relation to feelings of belonging and being different. The study provides insights into the children's lived experiences in the primary school, highlighting their constant emotional efforts of negotiating a number of different social backgrounds. These insights are relevant to the challenges which professionals working with children and young people as well as policymakers face with regards to fostering inclusive practices, and being attentive to and considerate of children's emotional landscapes in times of political austerity and rising anti-immigration sentiments.


Storytelling and Narrative Well-being Workshop Series (£1,000) (2012-13) Funded by an Innovation Initiative Grant from the University of Edinburgh. (Co-PI) and Jessica MacLaren (Co-PI)  This collaboration with the Scottish Storytelling Centre sought to explore the use of storytelling in academia.  The aims of the project were to explore the interfaces of storytelling, research and practice and to encourage creative ways of doing research and communicating with audiences within and outwith academia.