Katerina Romanova

katrina is sitting inside a restaurant smiling

I am currently engaged as a first-year DPhil student in Experimental Psychology at the Oxford Risk and Resilience, Genes and Environment (orange) research laboratory. My academic background includes a BA (Hons) in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford. My previous research experiences, notably at the National Institute of Mental Health in Czechia and the Psychological Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, have focused on the intergenerational transmission of trauma and the motivations behind children's prosocial and antisocial behaviours. Since joining the orange lab, my research interest has been centred around peer victimization and its impacts. The aim of my doctoral research is to contribute to the development of effective, inclusive anti-bullying interventions.



Bullying is one of the major health, economic and social issues of society today. Bullying is a highly prevalent phenomenon, with almost a third of adolescents reporting having been bullied in their time at school (Przybylski & Bowes, 2017). Research has found victimisation to be associated with severe mental health problems that can be long-lasting (Arseneault et al., 2010). The problem of bullying and its negative implications on mental health has been addressed in the development of many anti-bullying interventions. Whilst anti-bullying interventions have had a large-scale, positive impact, recent findings indicate that a minority of children do not benefit and alarmingly, some might experience even worse outcomes.


Recent evidence suggests that those children who keep experiencing victimisation in contexts which have generally decreased in victimisation face even more significant hardships and reduced well-being than they would have otherwise (Garandeau et al., 2018). The ‘healthy context paradox’ identifies a group of vulnerable children, but given the novelty of the finding, its prevalence and mechanisms remain unknown. It is one of the goals of my DPhil to identify whether the healthy context paradox exists across cultures and which children are vulnerable to it. I plan to do this by conducting research across multiple countries using methods such as longitudinal studies and social network analysis.


An important aspect of the study will be to examine the particular vulnerability of children with special educational needs and neurodiversity to bullying. An increasing body of evidence indicates that children with special educational needs and those who are neurodiverse are particularly susceptible to victimization and its negative outcomes and require tailored interventions to address their needs (Badger et al., 2023). I would like my research to contribute to the development of effective anti-bullying interventions for every child.


Finally, I am interested in the neurophysiological factors associated with chronic victimization, which vastly increases the severity of the impact of bullying. I plan to use data from longitudinal twin studies to control for genetic liability and use cortisol data to reveal how the function of the HPA axis could be affected or affect chronic victimization and the potential moderating or mediating influences.


This research aligns with the objectives of the Leverhulme Trust Biopsychosocial Doctoral Scholarship Programme by aiming to reduce inequality and enhance the effectiveness of anti-bullying interventions. The goal is to ensure that children from diverse backgrounds can benefit from these interventions, thereby reducing the risk of long-term psychopathology and contributing to the development of a more resilient youth population.