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Dr Esther Burkitt

Reader in Developmental Psychology (Lifespan Development) | (01243) 816359

BA (Oxon), MSc (Oxon), PhD, AFBPsS , CPsychol, Csci, FHEA

Leads the Child and Adolescent Socio-Emotional Development





Dr Esther Burkitt is a Reader in Developmental Psychology at the University of Chichester, previously holding lecturing posts at The Open University, UK, Victoria University, New Zealand, the University of Portsmouth, UK, and the University of Sussex, UK. Esther graduated with an honours degree in Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology from the University of Oxford in 1995, an honorary MSc Psychology from the University of Oxford in 2000 and was awarded her PhD examining expressive aspects of children’s drawings from the University of Surrey in 2000. She was awarded a PGCERT in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in 2002. Esther is a Chartered Psychologist, a Chartered Scientist, an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Esther has designed and delivered a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Developmental Psychology, Educational Psychology, Social Psychology, Critical Thinking and Research Methodology.


Esther leads the following modules:

  • PSY104 Everyday Experience & Psychological Methods: Exploring Positive Psychology
  • PSY203 Developmental Psychology
  • IFY012 Thinking & Developing
  • M02 Advanced Applied Psychology (co-cordinator)


Esther served on the Research Ethics Committee, Research Committee and Academic Standards Committee before being elected as a current member of Academic Board. Esther is Admissions Tutor for the BSc Psychology, BSc Counselling and Psychology, BSc Forensics & Criminology, BSc Educational Psychology and MSci Advanced Applied Psychology programmes. She is Year 1 Academic Adviser. Esther is Consulting Editor for Educational Psychology and for the Journal of Contemporary Educational Psychology.


  • Burkitt, E., Watling, D., & Cocks, F. (2019). Mixed emotion experiences for self or another person in adolescence. Journal of Adolescence, 75, 63-72. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2019.07.004
  • Burkitt, E., Watling, D. & Message, H. (2019). Expressivity in children’s drawings of themselves for adult audiences with varied authority and familiarity. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, doi: 10.1111/bjdp.12278
  • Burkitt, E., Lowry, R., & Fotheringham, F. (2018). Children’s understanding of mixed emotions in self and other: Verbal reports and visual representations, Infant and Child Development, e 2076. 27(3). doi:10.1002/icd.2076
  • Burkitt, E. (2018). Children's drawings, 2nd Ed. In Oxford Bibliographies in Childhood Studies. Ed. Heather Montgomery. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Burkitt, E. (2017). Assessing the concordance between child reports and adult observations of single and mixed emotion in children’s drawings of themselves or another child. Educational Psychology, 38(1), 75-98. doi:10.1080/01443410.2017.1390072
  • Burkitt, E. (2016). The effects of task explicitness to communicate on the expressiveness of children’s drawings of different topics. Educational Psychology, 1–18. doi: 10.1080/01443410.2016.1150422
  • Burkitt, E. & Watling, D. (2015). How do children who understand mixed emotion represent them in freehand drawings of themselves and others? Journal of Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology. doi: 1080/01443410.2015.1044942
  • Burkitt, E. & Lowry, R. (2015). Attitudes and practices that shape children’s drawing behaviour in mainstream and performing arts schools, The International Journal of Art & Design Education, 34, 1, 25-43.
  • Abbott, R. & Burkitt, E. (2015) Child development and the brain: An Introduction. Bristol. Policy Press.
  • Burkitt, E. & Sheppard, L. (2014). Children’s colour use to portray themselves and others with happy, sad and mixed emotion, Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology, Vol 34(2), Feb, 2014. pp. 231-251
  • Burkitt, E. (2013). Children's drawings. In Oxford Bibliographies in Childhood Studies. Ed. Heather Montgomery. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Burkitt, E. & Watling, D. (2013). The impact of audience age and familiarity on children’s drawings of themselves in contrasting affective states. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 37, 3, 222-234.
  • Burkitt, E., Watling, D. & Murray, L. (2011) Children’s drawings of significant figures for a peer or an adult audience, Infant and Child Development, 20,  466–473.
  • Burkitt, E. & Barrett, M. (2011). The effects of different drawing materials on children's drawings of positive and negative human figures, Educational Psychology, 4 (11), 459-479.
  • Burkitt, E., Jolley, R. & Rose, S. E. (2010). Art educational issues in the attitudes and practices that shape children’s drawing experience at home and at school, International Journal of Design and Art Education. 29, (3), 257-270.
  • Burkitt, E. & Barrett, M. (2010). Children’s graphic flexibility: A response to representational redescription, Journal of Creative Behavior.44, (3), 169-190.
  • Burkitt; E, Barrett; M. & Davis, A. (2009). Effects of different emotion terms on the size and colour of children's drawings, International Journal of Art Therapy: Formerly Inscape, 14, 2, 1745-4840.
  • Burkitt, E. Children’s choice of color to depict metaphorical and affective information, in Millbraith C. & Trautner, H. M. (Eds.) (2008). Children's Understanding and Production of Pictures, Drawings and Art: Theoretical and Empirical Approaches. Hogrefe & Huber Publisher, pp107-120, ISSBN 978-0-88973-350-1.
  • Burkitt, E., Tala, K. & Low, J. (2007). Finnish and English children’s color use to depict affectively characterised figures. International Journal of Behavioural Development, 31, (1), 59-64.
  • Burkitt, E., Barrett, M. & Davis, A. (2007) Effects of different emotion terms on the size and colour of children's drawings International Journal of Art Therapy.
  • Burkitt. E. & Barnett, N. (2006). The impact of brief and elaborate mood induction on drawing size: a question of approach? Educational Psychology, 26, (1), 93-108.
  • Rose, S.E., Jolley, R.P. & Burkitt, E. (2006). A review of children's, teachers' and parents' influences on children's drawing experience. International Journal of Art and Design Education,25, 341-349.
  • Burkitt, E. (2006). Review of Developmental Cognitive neuroscience (2nd. Ed) Mark H. Johnson, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford. Applied Developmental Psychology, 20, 1-2.
  • Burkitt, E. & Newell, T. (2005). Effects of human figure type on children's use of colour to depict sadness and happiness, International Journal of Art Therapy, 10, (1), 15-22.
  • Burkitt, E., Barrett, M. & Davis, A. (2005). Drawings of emotionally characterised figures by children from different educational backgrounds. International Journal of Art and Design Education, 24, (1), 71-83.
  • Davey, G. (Ed.) (2005). Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Psychology. London: Arnold. Contributor - development, change, childhood, adulthood.
  • Burkitt, E., Barrett, M., & Davis, A. (2004). The effect of affective characterizations on the use of size and colour in drawings produced by children in the absence of a model. Educational Psychology, 24, 315-343.
  • Burkitt, E., Barrett, M. & Davis, A. (2003). The effect of affective characterisations on the size of children's drawings. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 21, 565- 584.
  • Burkitt, E., Barrett, M. & Davis, A. (2003). The effect of affective characterisations on the use of colour within children's drawings. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44, 3, 445-455.
  • Hadjivassiliou, M., Tooth, C., Romanowski, C., Byrne, J., Battersby, R., Oxbury, S., Creswell, C., Burkitt, E., Stokes, N., Paul, C., Mayes, A. & Sagar, A. (2001). Aneurysmal SAH: Cognitive outcome and structural damage after clipping or coiling. Neurology, 56, 1672-1677.

Sample of conferences:

  • Lowry, Ruth G. , Burkitt, Esther , Edmunds, Sarand Farina, Nicolas (2018). Men in the company of men: A scoping review of the effectiveness of Men’s Sheds. In: Division of Sport & Exercise Psychology Conference, 3-4 December 2018, Hilton Hotel, Belfast.
  • Burkitt, E., Lowry, R., & Fotheringham, F. (2018, July). Children’s understanding of mixed emotions in self and other: Verbal reports and visual representations. International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development, Gold Coast, Australia.
  • Burkitt, E. (2017, July). Does it matter who children draw emotions for? Influences of peer and adult audiences on chidlren’s drawings of affectively characterised human figures. University of Chichester Research Conference, Bognor, UK.
  • Burkitt, E., & Lowry, R. (2017, June). The influence of social status and social economic status on adolescent intrinsic motivation for physical activity. International Society of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, Victoria, Canada.
  • Burkitt, E. (2016, September). Effects of audience types on children’s drawings of emotionally significant human figures for a peer or an adult audience. Presented at the 22nd International Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions World Congress (IACAPAP), Calgary, Canada.
  • Burkitt, E., & Fotheringham, F. (2016, July). How do children experience mixed emotion? Piloting the Analogue Emotion Scale. Presented at the University of Chichester Research Conference, Bognor Regis, UK.
  • Burkitt, E. (2015, September). How do children use literal and abstract features to draw their recognition of mixed emotion?  Accepted for presentation at the 17th European Conference on Developmental Psychology, Braga, Portugal.


Esther has four core research strands. These investigate emotional development with a focus on the experience, communication and wellbeing correlates of mixed emotion, child and adult uses of expressive devices to communicate through drawing and art, factors which facilitate artistic development, and the influences of nonverbal cues on memory and learning.

External funding & Awards

  • American Psychological Association award for excellence in quantitative experimental research design supervision, 2002
  • Jolley, R.P. & Burkitt, E. (2005-7) The development of children's drawing behaviour and its decline: A survey study. £39,524. Funded by The Leverhulme Trust.
  • Burkitt, E. (1997-2000). Expressive aspects of children’s drawings. £25, 000. Economic and Social Research Council.


  • 2016- ongoing: Consultant research and advertising copy for Lelli Kelly
  • 2011-2012: Consultant data analyst for Lloyds Pharmacy National Pain Campaign
  • 2007-2010: Consultant for Child of Our Time in partnership between The Open University and the BBC

PHD Supervision

Areas of supervision: Projects with a developmental or lifespan perspective primarily assessing the validity and utility of non-verbal measures of emotion development, benefits of drawings, and socio-emotional developmental antecedents of wellbeing. These projects can use quantitative, qualitative or mixed approaches.

Current students:

  • Sophie Goodwin: Self affirmation and stereotype threat reduction for girls’ STEM performance
  • Tanya Goosen: Children’s perceptions of an ideal coach

Previous students:

  • Dr Jamie Galpin: Cognitive and affective influences on children’s drawings
  • Dr Robert Pulley: Theatre of the imagination in design education

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