Thinking about ‘mental contamination’ in young people and how it might develop

Katie Wilkinson is training to be a Clinical Psychologist at the University of Bath. As part of her doctorate she is carrying out research about young people's mental health; specifically looking at the occurrence of something called mental contamination and its relationship to mental health.

What is the purpose of this research?

Research has looked at something called ‘mental contamination’ in the adult population. Mental contamination is when someone feels dirty even if they haven’t touched anything that they think is dirty. We don’t know if this feeling also happens in young people. Therefore, we would like to know if it does happen and if it affects young people’s mental health.

As part of the study we would also like to understand more about young people’s experience of betrayal. Betrayal is when someone feels they have been hurt or let down by someone they trusted (such as a good friend, a teacher, a member of their family or a romantic partner). Betrayal is a normal experience that happens to lots of people.

To be able to research these things we have made two new questionnaires. These measure mental contamination and experiences of betrayal in young people. As these are new questionnaires we would like young people aged 12-17 years to fill them in. This will help us make sure that they are measuring the right thing.

What will my child be asked to do if they decide to take part?

If you and your child would like to find out more about taking part in the research, you can contact the researcher on

If they would like to take part you or your child will then be sent a computer link or sent paper questionnaires in the post.
If your child is under 16 you will be asked to fill in a form to say it is ok for them to take part. If they are 16 or over they can fill this form in themselves.
Your child will then be asked to fill in four questionnaires. It is helpful for you to be there when your child is completing the questionnaires in case they have any questions or concerns.

Once they have finished the questionnaires, they will be shown some more information about the research. It would be helpful for you to read this information through with your child.
If your child completes the questionnaires online, once they have finished that is all they need to do. If they do paper questionnaires they will be given an envelope to send them back to the researcher in.
It is important that your child feels comfortable reading and understanding English so that they can answer questions independently. You can help your child read any questions they do not understand but you cannot help them answer.

Are there any benefits to my child taking part?

Taking part in this study will hopefully help us to understand mental health difficulties in young people better. We hope this will lead to better support for young people in the future.

Taking part also means your child will be entered into a prize draw for a chance to win a £10 Amazon voucher.

What will happen to my child’s answers after they take part?

Your child’s answers will be put on to a secure computer file where they will be kept anonymously (with a number not their name). They will be stored at the University of Bath for 10 years. After this their anonymised answers will be securely stored at the University of Bath Archives.

If you would like a summary of the study results after it has finished you can ask the researcher for this after your child has taken part. Any results from the study that are published will not include any identifiable information.

What if I have any questions or if I have a problem?

If you have questions about this study, you can contact the researchers. Firstly, you should contact the main researcher (Katie Wilkinson). But you can also contact the field supervisor or academic supervisors if needed. They will aim to get back to you within two weeks.

Main researcher – Katie Wilkinson Email:

Phone Number: 07908008420

Field Supervisor – Dr Sasha Walters Email:

Academic Supervisor – Dr Gemma Taylor Email:

Academic Supervisor – Dr Maria Loades Email:

Who is organising this study?

This study is being completed by a doctoral student at the University of Bath. It is closely supervised by members of staff in the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath.

Please read the attached Information Sheets for more information about this research.