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Elizabeth Rapa


Post Doctoral Researcher

  • Research focussed on Communication with Children about their own, or their parent's Life Threatening Condition
  • Implementing the Brain Story with families in Oxfordshire and beyond

Under the leadership of Professor Alan Stein, our group focusses on elucidating the key mechanisms underpinning child development including the intergenerational transmission of difficulties in the context of adversity.

My research focuses on the way children are told about the diagnosis of their own or a parent's, life threatening condition. In response to the current pandemic, we have developed the following resources:

1. A guide for healthcare workers who need to inform families by telephone that a relative has died of COVID-19. A key part of this is to identify if the deceased was a parent.

2. A guide to support caregivers with the unenviable task of telling children of an adult’s death (e.g. parent or grandparent).

In the forthcoming weeks, we hope to personalise these to specific disciplines who are moving to telemedicine rather than face to face consultations. All our resources can be accessed here.  

Previous studies across the globe have highlighted the importance of communication with children and families, and the impact that telling, or not telling, has on both the patient and their family. Effective communication has been associated with better psychological outcomes, as well as improved treatment adherence and disease progression. 

However, communication about such sensitive and distressing circumstances is  emotionally challenging, not only for children and parents, but also the healthcare professionals who undertake this important task.  

A second strand of research concerns how experiences early in life and at other sensitive periods of development can affect our brains in ways that may impact our health as we grow older.

This knowledge has important implications for both policy and practice, but despite its significance, the science behind early brain development is not widely disseminated, particularly to front line staff working with children and parents across health, education, social services and the criminal justice system.

In partnership with the Palix Foundation, we are working on an Oxfordshire-wide project to engage policy-makers, practitioners and the public with the Brain Story ( The Brain Story is a narrative framework that shares key scientific knowledge about early brain development through tools, resources and a certification course, with the aim of building resilience in families and communities. Our team is developing a programme to explore and evaluate different ways of implementing the Brain Story to maximise its reach and impact.

Key publications

Recent publications

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