Dr Nick Axford

Dr Nick Axford

PenCLAHRC Associate Professor (Reader) in Health Services

Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry


I work on a variety of projects with a focus on child health and implementation science. My specialism is evidence-based prevention and early intervention to improve child well-being, with a particular focus on developing or adapting interventions and evaluating their effectiveness and implementation. Prior to joining Plymouth University in April 2017 I was a Senior Researcher at Dartington Social Research Unit, an independent charity that brings science and evidence to bear on policy and practice in children's services to improve the health and development of children and young people.


2003 - PhD Advanced Social Work and Probation Studies, University of Exeter
1996 - MSc European Social Policy Analysis, University of Bath
1994 - BA(Hons) Geography with European Study, University of Exeter

Roles on external bodies

Expert Advisor to the Board of the European Society for Prevention Research (2014-present)
Member of the Early Intervention Foundation Evidence Panel (2014-present)
Associate, Dartington Social Research Unit (2017-present)

Research interests

My research interests are evidence-based prevention and early intervention to improve child well-being, notably designing services and evaluating their effectiveness and implementation. I have undertaken studies involving a variety of methods, including evidence reviews, randomised controlled trials and focus groups, and covering a range of subject areas, such as antisocial behaviour, bullying, child maltreatment, early childhood development and social-emotional learning. I am particularly interested in forms of intervention that have the potential to achieve impact at scale, and in methods for developing and testing these - including co-production with users and the use of rapid cycle innovation. I also enjoy engaging in debates about the value of evidence-based approaches in children's services.

Key publications are highlighted

Whybra L, Warner G, Bjornstad G, Hobbs T, Brook L, Wrigley Z, Berry V, Ukoumunne OC, Matthews J & Taylor R 2018 'The effectiveness of Chance UK's mentoring programme in improving behavioural and emotional outcomes in primary school children with behavioural difficulties: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial' BMC Psychol 6, (1) Author Site , DOI PEARL
Axford N, Warner G, Hobbs T, Heilmann S, Raja A, Berry V, Ukoumunne OC, Matthews J, Eames T & Kallitsoglou A 2018 'The effectiveness of the Inspiring Futures parenting programme in improving behavioural and emotional outcomes in primary school children with behavioural or emotional difficulties: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial' BMC Psychol 6, (1) Author Site , DOI PEARL
Kemp F, Raja A, Ohlson C, Morpeth L & Axford N 2017 'Fund-Mapping: the investment of public resources in the well-being of children and young people in Northern Ireland' Child Care in Practice , DOI PEARL
Axford N & Berry V 2017 'Perfect Bedfellows: Why Early Intervention Can Play a Critical Role in Protecting Children—A Response to Featherstone et al. (2014) ‘A Marriage Made in Hell: Child Protection Meets Early Intervention’' The British Journal of Social Work , DOI PEARL
Morpeth L, Blower S, Tobin K, Taylor RS, Bywater T, Edwards RT, Axford N, Lehtonen M, Jones C & Berry V 2017 'The effectiveness of the Incredible Years pre-school parenting programme in the United Kingdom: a pragmatic randomised controlled trial' Child Care in Practice 23, (2) 141-161 , DOI PEARL
Barlow J, Schrader-McMillan A, Axford N, Wrigley Z, Sonthalia S, Wilkinson T, Rawsthorn M, Toft A & Coad J 2016 'Review: Attachment and attachment-related outcomes in preschool children - a review of recent evidence' Child and Adolescent Mental Health 21, (1) 11-20 , DOI
Berry V, Axford N, Blower S, Taylor RS, Edwards RT, Tobin K, Jones C & Bywater T 2016 'The Effectiveness and Micro-costing Analysis of a Universal, School-Based, Social–Emotional Learning Programme in the UK: A Cluster-Randomised Controlled Trial' School Mental Health 8, (2) 238-256 , DOI PEARL
Clarkson S, Axford N, Berry V, Edwards RT, Bjornstad G, Wrigley Z, Charles J, Hoare Z, Ukoumunne OC & Matthews J 2015 'Effectiveness and micro-costing of the KiVa school-based bullying prevention programme in Wales: study protocol for a pragmatic definitive parallel group cluster randomised controlled trial' BMC Public Health 16, (1) , DOI PEARL
Axford N, Farrington DP, Clarkson S, Bjornstad GJ, Wrigley Z & Hutchings J 2015 'Involving parents in school-based programmes to prevent and reduce bullying: what effect does it have?' Journal of Children's Services 10, (3) 242-251 , DOI PEARL
Axford N & Morpeth L 2013 'Evidence-based programs in children's services: A critical appraisal' Children and Youth Services Review 35, (2) 268-277 , DOI PEARL
Axford N 2013 'Exploring the influence of international governmental organisations on domestic child welfare policy and practice' Adoption & Fostering 37, (1) 57-70 , DOI
Axford N, Hobbs T & Jodrell D 2013 'Making Child Well-Being Data Work Hard: Getting from Data to Policy and Practice' Child Indicators Research 6, (1) 161-177 , DOI
Axford N, Elliott DS & Little M 2012 'Blueprints for Europe: Promoting Evidence-Based Programmes in Children's Services' Psychosocial Intervention 21, (2) 205-214 , DOI
Axford N 2012 'Children and global social policy: Exploring the impact of international governmental organisations' International Journal of Social Welfare 21, (1) 53-65 , DOI
Axford N, Lehtonen M, Kaoukji D, Tobin K & Berry V 2012 'Engaging parents in parenting programs: Lessons from research and practice' Children and Youth Services Review 34, (10) 2061-2071 , DOI
Little M & Axford N 2012 'Plurality and rigour' Journal of Children's Services 7, (3) , DOI
Little M, Berry VL, Morpeth L, Blower S, Axford N, Taylor R, Bywater T, Lehtonen M & Tobin K 2012 'The impact of three evidence-based programmes delivered in public systems in Birmingham, UK' International Journal of Conflict and Violence 6, (2) 260-272
Axford N & Hobbs T 2011 'Getting the Measure of Child Health and Development Outcomes (1): A Method for Use in Children’s Services Settings' Child Indicators Research 4, (1) 59-80 , DOI
Hobbs T, Axford N & Jodrell D 2011 'Getting the Measure of Child Health and Development Outcomes (2): The Picture for a Local Authority in England' Child Indicators Research 4, (1) 81-100 , DOI
Axford N, Jonas M, Berry V, Green V & Morpeth L 2010 'Can study tours help promote evidence-based practice in children's services?' European Journal of Social Work 13, (4) 523-543 , DOI
Axford N 2010 'Conducting Needs Assessments in Children's Services' British Journal of Social Work 40, (1) 4-25 , DOI
Axford N 2010 'Is Social Exclusion a Useful Concept in Children's Services?' British Journal of Social Work 40, (3) 737-754 , DOI
Axford N 2010 'What's in a service?' Child & Family Social Work 15, (4) 473-482 , DOI
Whear R & Axford N 2009 '“Finish What's on Your Plate!”: The Relationships between Parenting, Children's Nutrition and Outcomes' Child Care in Practice 15, (2) 145-159 , DOI
Axford N 2009 'Child well-being through different lenses: why concept matters' Child & Family Social Work 14, (3) 372-383 , DOI
Axford N 2009 'Developing congruent children's services to improve child well-being' Child & Family Social Work 14, (1) 35-44 , DOI
Axford N, Green V, Kalsbeek A, Morpeth L & Palmer C 2009 'Measuring children's needs: how are we doing?' Child & Family Social Work 14, (3) 243-254 , DOI
Hobbs T, Carr M, Holley M, Gray N & Axford N 2008 'A dark art comes to the water‐cooler: a review of some key texts on RCTs for children's services professionals and researchers' Journal of Children's Services 3, (1) 40-50 , DOI
Axford N 2008 'Are Looked after Children Socially Excluded?' Adoption & Fostering 32, (4) 5-18 , DOI
Axford N, Morpeth L, Little M & Berry VL 2008 'Linking prevention science and community engagement: a case study of the Ireland Disadvantaged Children and Youth Programme' Journal of Children’s Services 3, (2) 40-54
Axford N & Whear R 2008 'Measuring and Meeting the Needs of Children and Families in the Community: Survey of Parents on a Housing Estate in Dublin, Ireland' Child Care in Practice 14, (4) 331-353 , DOI
Kiernan G, Axford N, Little M, Murphy C, Greene S & Gormley M 2008 'the school readiness of children living in a disadvantaged area in Ireland' Journal of Early Childhood Research 6, (2) 119-144 , DOI
Axford N, Crewe E, Domitrovich C & Morawska A 2008 'The science of a good childhood: a review of Volume 2 of the Journal of Children's Services' Journal of Children's Services 3, (4) 46-58 , DOI
Little M & Axford N 2007 'New directions, familiar challenges? A review of the first volume of the Journal of Children's Services' Journal of Children's Services 2, (1) 58-66 , DOI
Berry VL, Axford N & Little M 2006 'Enhancing service evaluability: lessons from a programme for disaffected young people' Children & Society 20, (4) 287-298
Axford N & Little M 2006 'Refocusing children's services towards prevention: lessons from the literature' Children & Society , DOI
Axford N 2005 'Evaluating Children's Services: Recent Conceptual and Methodological Developments' British Journal of Social Work 35, (1) 73-88 , DOI
Axford N & Berry V 2005 'Exploring the Potential of Shadow Controls in the Evaluation of Children’s Services' International Journal of Social Research Methodology 8, (5) 389-404 , DOI
Axford N & Berry V 2005 'Measuring Outcomes in the ‘New’ Children's Services' Journal of Integrated Care 13, (4) 12-23 , DOI
Axford N, Morpeth L, Pring J & Madge G 2004 'Mapping the Data Needed to Plan Integrated Services: a case study of children’s services in one locality' Journal of Integrated Care 12, (3) 3-10
Little M, Axford N & Morpeth L 2003 'Children's services in the UK 1997-2003: problems, developments and challenges for the future' Children & Society 17, (3) 205-214 , DOI
Axford N, Bywater T, Blower S, Berry V, Baker V & Morpeth L 2017 'Critical factors in the implementation of parenting programmes: fidelity, adaptation and promoting quality' in Dixon L; Perkins DF; Hamilton-Giachritisis C; Craig LA The Wiley Handbook of What Works in Child Maltreatment: An Evidence-Based Approach to Assessment and Intervention in Child Protection
Axford N, Jodrell D & Hobbs T 2014 'Objective or subjective well-being?' Handbook of Child Well-Being: Theories, Methods and Policies in Global Perspective 2699-2738 , DOI
Berry V, Blower S, Axford N, Little M & Kaoukji D 2014 'The prevention of child maltreatment and neglect' in Conte J Child Abuse and Neglect Worldwide
Axford N, Berry V, Bullock R, Little M, Madge J, Morpeth L & Mount K 2007 'Research-Based Practice Tools to Improve Child Welfare Services in England: Using the Going Home? Practice Tool to Support the Effective Reunification of Families' Research for Action: Cross-National Perspectives on Connecting Knowledge, Policy, and Practice for Children , DOI
Axford N, Lowther K, Timmons L, Bjornstad G, Brook L, Webb L & Sonthalia S 2018 Rapid Review on Safeguarding to Update the Healthy Child Programme 5 to 19. PEARL
Axford N, Whelan S & Hobbs T 2018 'Wrong' answers, right response: learning from randomised controlled trials when you don't get the results you were hoping for. Author Site PEARL
Other Publications
Axford N & Little M 2013 Journal of children's services. 0 0
Little M & Axford N 2012 Article type: Editorial from: Journal of children's services, volume 7, issue 2. 0 0
Axford N 2011 Evidence-based Social Work: A Critical Stance. 0 0 425-427 , DOI
Axford N 2010 Understanding International Social Work: A Critical Analysis. 0 0 2687-2689 , DOI