Personal profile


Cecilia A. Essau was born and raised in the tropical jungle of Borneo Island. She received her early education in Sarawak, Malaysia and after completing her O-Level she went to Canada where she did her Highschool Diploma at Hillcrest Highschool in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She obtained her undergraduate degrees (Bachelor of Arts Degree; Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree) and her Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology from Lakehead University (Canada), her PhD in Developmental and Cross-cultural Psychology from the University of Konstanz (Germany), and her post-doctoral degree in Developmental Psychopathology (qualification for tenure-track professorships in Germany: Habilitation) from the University of Bremen (Germany). She is the first Iban woman to have received a PhD.

She has held a number of academic positions in Canadian (Lakehead University), Austrian (Karl-Franzens University Graz), and German (Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry, University of Konstanz, University of Bremen, Technical University Braunschweig, University of Muenster) universities before joining the University of Roehampton in May 2004 as Professor of Developmental Psychopathology. 

She is also Visiting Professor at the University of Adelaide, Australia and  Scientific Advisor at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on the development and dissemination of a “Treatnet Family Intervention”, an evidence-based training package for adolescents with drug use disorders.

In 2011, she was made Fellow of the British Psychological Society in recognition of her contribution to the field of Psychology.
In 2013, she was awarded the Norman Munn Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award by Flinders University, Australia.
In 2015, she was awarded the Florey Medical Research Foundation Mental Health Visiting Professor by the University of Adelaide, Australia.
In August 2019, she was Singapore’s Ministry of Health HMDP (Health Manpower Development Plan) Visiting Expert in children and adolescent with emotional and/or behavioural problems.

With research grants from numerous national and international institutions, her research has focused on understanding the interacting factors that can lead children and adolescents to have serious emotional and behavioural problems and using this research to (a) enhance the assessment of childhood and adolescent psychopathology and (b) design more effective interventions to prevent and treat such problems.
She is the author of over 295 articles, and is the author/editor of 22 books in the area of youth mental health.



Research interests

Professor Essau's research interests are in the broad area of Developmental Psychopathology and Cross-cultural Psychology. She has over 20 on-going projects, most of which are conducted in collaboration with her colleagues in different centers around the globe:

- Child and Adolescent Mental Health (e.g., anxiety, depression, conduct problems, substance misuse)
- Comorbidity of Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
- Domestic Violence
- Prevention/Intervention of Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
- Williams Syndrome
- Psychopathic Traits (e.g., callous und unemotional traits)
- Parenting Practice
- Cross-cultural Psychology
- Assessment
- Mental Health Literacy
- Procrastination
- Applied Developmental Psychology

Research projects

Professor Essau has received research grants from numerous national and international institutions, including the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC); UK Medical Research Council (MRC); Kavli Trust Programme for Health Research (Norway); Association of Commonwealth Universities; German Research Council; Ministry of Education, Science, Arts, and Sport (Province of Bremen); German Academic Exchange Services (DAAD); American Council of Learned Societies; Polish Committee for Scientific Research (Komitet Badan Naukowych, KBN); Dr. Karl-Wilder-Stiftung; Hong Kong Research Council; Danish Ministry of Education; Hungarian Scholarship Board; Schneider-Sasakawa-Fund/Nippon Foundation; The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation; British Academy; Williams Syndrome Foundation; Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation; The British Council; The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; The Department for Innovations, Universities & Skills; The Wandsworth Borough Council; The University of Hertfordshire; and Internal grants (Universities of Bremen, Munster, Roehampton).

Professor Essau has received grants and invitations as a Visiting Scholar in various universities, including the University of California at Los Angeles, Stanford University, Karl-Franzens University Graz (Austria), Opole University (Poland), Aarhus University Hospital (Denmark), University of Debrecen (Hungary), University Lusofona (Portugal), Waseda University (Japan), Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido (Japan), Oregon Research Institute (USA), University of Ibadan (Nigeria), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (Malaysia), Lebanese American University (Lebanon), Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Fatima Jinnah Women University (Pakistan), University of the Punjab (Pakistan), Naruto University of Education (Japan), Nanjing University (China), and University of Miyazaki (Japan).

Externally-funded Research Projects (Current and Recent)

  • Promoting mental health among at-risk adolescents in Malaysia. (Grant: Kavli Trust Programme for Health Research [PI]).

  • Extending the reach, impact and sustainability of ToyBox Study Malaysia: A kindergarten-based healthy behaviour intervention. (Grant: Newton Fund Impact Scheme [Co-I])

  • “What must I seem like to you? How ‘victimhood’ is portrayed in educational advocacy interventions for female survivors of domestic violence and abuse.” (Grant: UKRI Mental Health Networks;  Violence, Abuse and Mental Health Network, Section of Women's Mental Health [Co-I]).  

  • A multi-perspective analysis of university students' personal mental health and well-being capital and its effect on their life outcomes. (Project in collaboration with:  University of Surrey and the Institute of Psychiatry. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK [Co-I])
  • “Treatnet Family Intervention” for adolescents with Substance Use Disorders: A Feasibility Study in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Project of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime)

  • Improving healthy energy balance- and obesity-related behaviours among preschoolers in Malaysia: Feasibility of adapting the ToyBox-Study. (Grant: UK Medical Research Council (MR/P013805/1). Project in collaboration with: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Durham University, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece, Roehampton University [lead] [Co-I])

  • Enhancing psychological well-being of pupils in transition from primary to secondary school
    (Grant: Funded by The Wandsworth Clinical Commissioning Group [PI])
  • Protecting infants and toddlers from domestic violence: Development of a diagnostic protocol for infant and toddler abuse and neglect and its implementation to public health system
    (Grant: The European Commission: Directorate-General Justice; DAPHNE III [Co-I])
  • Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment in Wandsworth
    (Grant: The Wandsworth Borough Council [PI])
  • Outline monitoring requirements for the Winstanley & York Road Estates Programme
    (Grant: The Wandsworth Borough Council [PI])
  • Evaluation of the Roehampton Challenge
    (Grant: The Wandsworth Borough Council [PI])
  • Evaluation of the Evaluation of the Wandsworth AIR Football Sports and Personal Development Project
    (Grant: The Wandsworth Borough Council [PI])
  • Examining the efficacy of a robot in teaching social interaction in children with autism
    (Grant: The University of Hertfordshire [Co-I])
  • Psychological impact of the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake and Tsunami in Japanese children
    (Grant: The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation [PI])
  • Early intervention for social anxiety in school children
    (Sub-contract with the Catholic Children Society; Grant: The Education, Children's and Cultural Services Directorate of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames [PI])
  • Anxiety among adolescents in Pakistan: From epidemiology to prevention (in collaboration with: Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan)
    (Grant: The Higher Education Commission [HEC] in Pakistan) & British Council INSPIRE Strategic Partnerships fund [PI])
  • Depression in adolescents
    (Grant: PORTICUS Dusseldorf GmbH, Germany [Co-I])
  • Anxiety symptoms across two generations of the same families in Japan and in the UK
    (Grant: British Council under the PMI2 Strategic Alliances and Partnerships project, Research Co-operation [PI])
    Rated by the assessment panel as the top 7 best proposals (out of 86 funded projects under the PMI2 programme)
  • Development of employability and entrepreneurship skills training programme for students at the University of Ibadan
    (Grant: The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills [PI])
  • Emotion regulation among young adults in Japan and in the UK
    (Grant: Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation [PI])
  • Anxiety prevention in young people with Williams Syndrome
    (Grant: Williams Syndrome Foundation [PI])
  • Social anxiety and Taijin Kyofusho symptoms in England and Japan: A cross-cultural comparison
    (Grant: The British Academy and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science [PI])
  • A cross-cultural study on anxiety and fears among children and adolescents in Japan and in Great Britain
    (Grant: The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation [PI])

Externally-funded Research Projects (Status: Completed)

  • Prevention of anxiety and depression in children (Grant: Dr. Karl-Wilder Stiftung)
  • Impact of parental unemployment on children's psychological well-being (Grant: German DAAD and the Polish Committee for Scientific Research [Komitet Badan Naukowych, KBN])
  • Anxiety symptoms among children and adolescents in Hong Kong and in Germany (Grant: DAAD and Hong Kong Research Council)
  • Risk-taking behavior in German and Hungarian adolescents (Grant: DAAD and Hungarian Scholarship Board (MÖB))
  • Cross-cultural study of anxiety symptoms and disorders in children (Grant: University of Munster and the Nippon Foundation)
  • Epidemiology of psychiatric disorders in adolescents (Grant: German Research Council)
  • Intervention of depressive disorders in children and adolescents (Grant: University of Bremen and the Ministry of Education, Science, Arts, and Sport)
  • Prevention of depressive disorders in children and adolescents (Grant: University of Bremen and the Ministry of Education, Science, Arts, and Sport)
  • Control orientation and depression in adolescents (Grant: German DAAD and the American Council of Learned Societies)

Internally-funded Research Projects (Current and Recent)

  • An association between anxiety sensitivity and heart rate reactivity and heart rate perception.
  • Theory of mind, emotional understanding and social skills in children.
  • Parenting, personality traits, and conduct problems among young offenders and adolescents in school settings.
  • Academic procrastination: A cross-cultural comparison.
  • Academic and general procrastination: The role of self-regulatory behaviour and time perception.
  • Risk taking behaviour in adolescents.
  • Anxiety and fears in young people with Williams Syndrome.

Consultancy work

She is a frequent reviewer for research grant proposals/research award nominations for the following institutions:

  • Swiss National Science Foundation (Switzerland)
  • Fund for Scientific Research - Flanders (Belgium)
  • The Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development: Disease Prevention Programme
  • The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development: Risk and Behaviour and Dependency committee
  • Killam Research Fellowships (Canada)
  • Rockefeller Foundation (USA)
  • Health Research Board (Ireland)
  • British Academy (UK)
  • Medical Research Council (UK)
  • The Leverhulme Trust, UK
  • British Psychology Society, Division of Clinical Psychology (May Davidson Award)
  • British Psychology Society (Outstanding Doctoral Research Award)
  • Guy's and St. Thomas Charity, UK
  • The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland
  • Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award

Professor Essau has served in scientific committees of several international congresses, including the World Congress of Behavior and Cognitive Therapy in Vancouver (Canada, 2001) and in Boston (USA, 2010); the Second International Conference on Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia, 2000); the Third International Conference on Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Brisbane (Australia, 2002), and the 47th German Psychological Association conference (Bremen, Germany, 2010). Since 2006 she has organized an annual International Conference on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, which has attracted researchers and clinicians from different centers around the world.

She has been in External Appointment Committees (e.g., Stanford University School of Medicine, USA; Karl-Franzens University Graz, Austria; Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; University of Salford, UK; University of the West Indies, Jamaica West Indies) and in an External Unit Review Team (e.g., University of Calgary, Canada; Lebanese American University, Lebanon) for various universities. She has served as an external adviser for the validation of the BSc (Hons) in Cross Cultural Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, and is an International Adviser to the Centre for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

She also serves in a task force of numerous international projects, including those funded by the MacArthur Foundation, World Health Organization, the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology, and the Health Research Board (Ireland).



Professor Essau is keen to hear from individuals interested in studying for a research degree in the general area of Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, particularly when there is an interest in any of the following areas: anxiety, depression, conduct problems, pathological gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse/dependence, procrastination, psychopathic traits, parenting, stress and coping, and cross-cultural psychology.

She has supervised more than 50 postgraduate theses (MA/MPhil and PhD) in various areas of Clinical and Cross-cultural Psychology. She is also a past/current external examiner for the following universities: University of Bremen; University of Muenster (Germany); National University of Singapore; Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Griffith University (Australia); Monash University (Australia); University of East Anglia (UK); University College Dublin (Ireland); University of Mysore (India); Swansea Metropolitan University (UK); National Institue of Psychology, Quaid-i-Azam University (Pakistan).


External positions

Member of the Family Justice Council Experts Working Group, Family Justice Council

23 Apr 2024 → …

Visiting Professor, University of Adelaide

8 Oct 2015 → …

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or