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Karen Cooper



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Personal profile


I have a background in Sociology and Criminology and inter-disciplinary research experience across Psychology, Health, Education and Social Work. After completing my DPhil in Criminology at the University of Oxford, I was employed as an analyst in the Scottish Government’s, Justice Analytical Services.

I then returned to academia, working at the University of Edinburgh on a series of projects linked to young people’s relationships and behaviours, primarily in the online context. I research issues around mental health, risk, exploitation and child protection; using mixed methods and qualitative enquiry to explore the multi-dimensional nature of these issues.

In March 2020, I joined UWS as Research Fellow in the Protracted Crisis Research Centre.

Area of academic expertise - outline

I have contributed to a number of regional, national and international research projects, including:

  • What does ‘terrorism’ mean to young people? A qualitative art project’ Young people’s perceptions of terrorism and violence from exposure to different social media. (Innovation and Initiative Grant, University of Edinburgh).
  • An EU-funded project, ‘Self-Produced Images – Risk Taking Online’ (SPIRTO), exploring risk and consequence for young people in the UK, Sweden and Germany generating and sharing online sexual content. 
  • ‘Young people, social media and sexting in South Korea: how do cultural factors influence parent/professional responses to these practices?’ (British Council Travel Grant to EWHA Womans University, Seoul, South Korea).
  • A national evaluation for the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales: ‘Keeping Young People Engaged: Improving education, training and employment opportunities for serious and persistent young offenders’.
  • Research study for the Howard League for Penal Reform on ‘Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection’.

Current research activities

I work with disadvantaged/vulnerable groups to explore the interpersonal experiences and behaviours that shape their lives. I am particularly interested in how experiences of risk and coercion impact upon relationships, health and wellbeing. I also collaborate with research participants and stakeholders to co-produce resources aimed at enhancing knowledge and support services.

Current projects:

  • Examining the risks and benefits of online environments for care-experienced young people and the impact of these environments on their relationships and mental health. (ENurture, 2019 - )
  • An inter-disciplinary study of the experiences of staff supporting vulnerable groups in temporary hotel accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic. (UWS Crucible Funding, 2020-)

External positions

Research Fellow (PT), University of Edinburgh

2013 → …


  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • Criminology
  • Mental health
  • Child Protection
  • Gender
  • Qualitative methodology
  • youth
  • Social justice
  • Social Media
  • Risk
  • Health and Wellbeing


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