Professor Karen Thorpe

ARC Australian Laureate Fellow - Gr

Queensland Brain Institute

Overview

Karen Thorpe is Australian Research Council, Laureate Professor and Group Leader in Child Development, Education and Care at the Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland. Her research is grounded in the understanding that early learning experiences shape brain development and are critical in establishing trajectories of health, social inclusion and learning across the lifespan. A particular focus of her work is early care and education environments including parenting, parent work, quality of care and education, and the early years workforce.

Karen leads a multi-disciplinary team of developmental scientists undertaking large scale longitudinal studies with embedded studies to explicate mechanisms that enable or limit children’s life chances. She was Foundation Psychologist on the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children at the University of Bristol, UK; led the evaluation of the Preparing School Trial for Queensland Government; led the Queensland team of the E4Kids study of quality in Australian Early Education and Care and a recent data linkage project with Queensland Government to track participants through their school journey. In partnership with Queensland Government, Goodstart Early Learning and the Creche and Kindergarten Association she led a large population study of the Australian ECEC workforce (ARC Linkage). Her current research, as a chief investigator on the ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families across the life course, and through an ARC Laureate fellowship, is to examine barriers to providing high quality early learning services in developmentally vulnerable communities.

In 2013 and again in 2019 Karen was named by the Australian Financial Review as among Australia's 100 Women of Influence for the impacts of her research on educational and family policy. In 2020 she was recognised by Australian Government, Advance Global Awards for her international contribution to education. Karen chairs the Australian Early Years Reference Council for Evidence for Learning, Australia whose remit is to build a strong evidence-base in early childhood education and care with focus on translation into policy and practice. She is also director on the board of the Australian Research Council for Children and Youth and advisor to the national board of Beyond Blue – Be You.

Research Interests

  • Early Childhood Education and Care
    Karen's work focuses on 4 domains that influence children's experiences in their early childhood learning environments - Policy - the funding mechanisms and social and educational policies directed towards access and quality of ECEC Provider - the effects of the mixed market of provision and enablers and constraints that influence allocation of available funds and types of provision Place - the social setting and circumstances that enter the ECEC service and room that can affect children's needs and everyday experiences People - the ECEC workforce and their capacity to support children and families given the resources within their setting A key focus is the potential of ECEC to redress social inequities and identifying ways to remove barriers to this aim
  • Effects of experiences in the early years of life
    Karen Thorpe is Australian Research Council, Laureate Professor and Group Leader in Child Development, Education and Care at the Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland. Her research is grounded in the understanding that early learning experiences shape brain development and are critical in establishing trajectories of health, social inclusion and learning across the lifespan. A particular focus of her work is early care and education environments including parenting, parent work, quality of care and education, and the early years workforce.
  • Longitudinal studies
    Karen was the Foundation Psychologist on the British Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children - a study of 14,000 children tracked from pregnancy in 1991 until the present day. This unique study was the first to combine genetic, biological and social data collections to understand the influences on children' s life course development. She continues to analyse data from this study and collaborate with colleagues in at the University of Bristol where these data are housed. Since returning to Australia in 2002 Karen has applied her expertise in longitudinal studies to create longitudinal data sets focused on early education and care experiences. She has established 4 large Australian data sets focussed on ECEC and in 2023 will commence another longitudinal study focused of ECEC in disadvantaged Australian communities funded by an Australian Laureate fellowship.

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Bristol

Publications

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Grants

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Publications

Featured Publications

Book

Book Chapter

  • Cooke, Emma, Coles, Laetitia, Thorpe, Karen and Houen, Sandy (2024). Crystallising the everyday emotional work of women working in childcare during Covid-19. Departing radically in academic writing: alternative approaches to writing and methods in qualitative research. (pp. 15-25) edited by Elizabeth Mackinlay and Karen Madden. London, United Kingdom: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781003360766-2

  • Sullivan, Victoria, Sak, Ramazan and Thorpe, Karen (2021). Experiences of workplace relationships as factors precipitating or preventing dropout of male educators in ECEC. Exploring Career Trajectories of Men in the Early Childhood Education and Care Workforce: Why They Leave and Why They Stay. (pp. 83-97) edited by David L. Brody, Kari Emilsen, Tim Rohrmann and Jo Warin. Abingdon, Oxon, United Kingdom : Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781003048473-9

  • Xu, Yuwei, Warin, Jo, Thorpe, Karen and Rohrmann, Tim (2021). Researching men’s career trajectories in ECEC: a cross-cultural inter-researcher approach. Exploring Career Trajectories of Men in the Early Childhood Education and Care Workforce: Why They Leave and Why They Stay. (pp. 43-56) edited by David L. Brody, Kari Emilsen, Tim Rohrmann and Jo Warin. Abingdon, Oxon, United Kingdom: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781003048473-6

  • Theobald, Maryanne, Danby, Susan, Thompson, Catherine and Thorpe, Karen (2020). Friendships. Health and Wellbeing in Childhood. (pp. 235-256) edited by Susanne Garvis and Donna Pendergast. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/9781108658874.015

  • Brody, D., Xu, Y., Thorpe, K. and Rohrmann, T. (2020). Methodology for a 12 country study. Men in childcare: factors affecting entry and exit of a career in ECEC. (pp. ---) edited by Brody, D., Rohrmann, T., Emilsen, K. and Warin, J.. -: Routledge.

  • Thorpe, Karen, Staton, Sally and Bekkhus, Mona (2020). Twins and other multiples. Encyclopaedia of child and adolescent development. (pp. 1-15) edited by Stephen Hupp and Jeremy D Jewell. New York, United States: John Wiley and Sons. doi: 10.1002/9781119171492.wecad219

  • Sarmardin, Dixie, Leske, Rachel, Woods, Annette and Thorpe, Karen (2020). ‘It’s much more than getting ready to go to school’: thinking about young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children learning literacy. Literacies in early childhood: foundations for equity and quality. (pp. 100-111) edited by Annette Woods and Beryl Exley. Docklands, Victoria, Australia: Oxford University Press.

  • Miller, M., Dawson-Sinclair, K., Eivers, A. and Thorpe, K. (2019). Cultural security in Australian classrooms: entanglements with mainstream education as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children transition to school. Culture in education, education in culture: tensioned dialogues and creative constructions. (pp. 57-77) edited by Pernille Hviid and Mariann Martsin. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-28412-1

  • Davidson, Christina, Danby, Susan J., Given, Lisa M. and Thorpe, Karen (2018). Producing contexts for young children’s digital technology use: web searching during adult-child interactions at home and preschool. Digital childhoods: technologies and children’s everyday lives. (pp. 65-82) edited by Susan J. Danby, Marilyn Fleer , Christina Davidson and Maria Hatzigianni. Singapore, Singapore: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-981-10-6484-5_5

  • Davidson, Christina, Danby, Susan J. and Thorpe, Karen (2017). "Uh Oh": Multimodal meaning making during viewing of YouTube videos in preschool. Multimodal perspectives of language, literacy, and learning in early childhood: the creative and critical "art" of making meaning. (pp. 233-255) edited by Marilyn J. Narey. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-44297-6_12

  • Theobald, M., Danby, S., Thorpe, K. and Thompson, C. (2017). Friendships. Health and wellbeing in the early years. (pp. 141-160) edited by Susanne Garvis and Donna Pendergast. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/9781316780107.011

  • Danby, Susan, Davidson, Christina, Theobald, Maryanne, Houen, Sandra and Thorpe, Karen (2017). Pretend play and technology: Young children making sense of their everyday social worlds. Multidisciplinary perspectives on play from birth and beyond. (pp. 231-245) edited by Sandra Lynch, Deborah Pike and Cynthia à Beckett. Singapore: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-981-10-2643-0_14

  • Houen, Sandra, Danby, Susan, Farrell, Ann and Thorpe, Karen (2017). Web searching as a context to build on young children’s displayed knowledge. Children's knowledge-in-interaction: studies in conversation analysis. (pp. 57-72) edited by Amanda Bateman and Amelia Church. Singapore: Springer . doi: 10.1007/978-981-10-1703-2_4

  • Danby, Susan, Davidson, Christina, Given, Lisa M. and Thorpe, Karen (2016). Composing an email: social interaction in a preschool classroom. Understanding digital technologies and young children: an international perspective. (pp. 5-17) edited by Susanne Garvis and Narelle Lemon. Abingdon, Oxon, United Kingdom: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781315753027

  • Boyd, Wendy, Millear, Prudence M. , Thorpe, Karen and Walker, Sue (2016). Working it out: balancing work and care after the birth of a first child. Exploring resources, life-balance and well-being of women who work in a global context. (pp. 145-159) edited by Roxane L Gervais and Prudence M. Millear. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-31736-6_9

  • Theobald, Maryanne, Danby, Susan, Thompson, Catherine and Thorpe, Karen (2014). Friendships. Health and wellbeing in childhood. (pp. 114-132) edited by Susanne Garvis and Donna Pendergast. Port Melbourne, Vic, Australia: Cambridge University Press.

  • Thorpe, K. (2014). Language development in twins. Encyclopedia of language development. (pp. Unknown-Unknown) edited by Patricia J. Brooks and Vera Kempe. New York, United States: Sage.

  • Thorpe, K., Cloney, D. and Tayler, C. (2010). Rethinking early childhood education and care: Implications for research and evaluation. International Encyclopedia of Education. (pp. 144-150) Elsevier Ltd. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-08-044894-7.01201-X

  • Thorpe, K., Cloney, D., and Tayler, C. (2010). Changing policy conceptualisations of ECEC: implications for research and evaluation. International encyclopaedia of education. (pp. Unknown-Unknown) New Delhi, India: APH Publishing.

  • Butler, Carly W., Danby, Susan, Emmison, Michael and Thorpe, Karen (2010). Managing medical advice seeking in calls to child health line. Communication in healthcare settings: Policy participation and new technologies. (pp. 31-47) edited by Alison Pilnick, Jon Hindmarsh and Virginia Teas Gill. United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9781444324020.ch3

  • Brownlee, J., Stacey, P. and Thorpe, K. (2005). Investigating teacher beliefs about knowing and learning: can we do it better?. Stimulating the action as participants in participatory research . (pp. 137-145) edited by F. Bryer, D. Roebuck and B. Bartlett. Brisbane, Australia: Griffin University.

  • Elliott, S. A. and Thorpe, K. J. (1998). Well-being of mothers. The psychology of reproduction: current issues in infancy and parenthood. (pp. 1-1) edited by Anne Walker and Catherine Niven. Oxford, United Kingdom: Butterworth Heinemann.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision