Dr Tim Morris

Dr Tim MorrisResearch Topic Title: Incorporating genetic data to better understand social and environmental drivers of education and health in childhood.

The link between the social environment and education and health is complex and intertwined – or confounded – with a range of other factors. This can make it difficult for us to identify the extent to which inequalities in education and health arise directly from exposure to social or environmental disadvantage. My research exploits genetic data and complex methodological approaches to minimise this confounding and investigate how differences in education and health may arise from social and environmental factors.

Our DNA is set at conception and our genes randomly allocated from our parents. Many small differences in the genes that we inherit have tiny effects in the way we look, behave, and interact within our environments. When summed, these tiny effects can be informative of how healthy we are and how we respond to education. This genetic information is often less informative than social information such as our parents’ level of education or their own health, but it is subject to different confounding structures. It can therefore be exploited to investigate how social and environmental factors may lead to educational and health inequalities under different biases to traditional social science and epidemiological research.

Complex methodological approaches can also be used to investigate how unmeasured differences between people may be responsible for producing the different educational and health outcomes that we observe. Where these unmeasured differences are important, interpretation of results may be biased to the point of being incorrect and could lead to harmful not helpful intervention. The use of realistically complex modelling can therefore ensure accurate identification of the drivers of social differences in education and health.

Mentor: Professor George Davey Smith


Morris TT, Davey Smith G, Van Den Berg G, Davies NM. Investigating the phenotypic consistency and genetic architecture of noncognitive skills. Under Review. Pre-print available on bioRxiv at http://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/11/14/470682.
Morris TT, Guggenheim JA, Northstone K, Williams C. Geographical variation in myopia using urban/rural status and population density: A multilevel cross classified analysis of a UK cohort. Under review.
Boyd A, Thomas R, Hansell A, Gulliver J, Hicks L, Griggs R, Vande Hey J, Taylor C, Morris T, Golding J, Doerner R, Fecht D, Henderson J, Lawlor D, Timpson N, MacLeod JA. Data Resource Profile: the ALSPAC birth cohort as a platform to study the relationship of environment and health and social factors.  Under review.
Morris TT, Davies NM, Dorling D, Richmond RC, Davey Smith G. Testing the validity of value-added measures of educational progress with genetic data. British Educational Research Journal. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3466.
Morris TT, Manley D, van Ham M. Context or composition: How does neighbourhood deprivation effect adolescent smoking? PLOS One. 2018. 13(2). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192566.
Morris T, Manley D, Northstone K, Sabel CE. What’s the difference between movers and stayers? Examining the impacts of major life events on mental health outcomes. Health & Place. 2017. 46: 257-266.
Morris TT. Examining the influence of major life events as drivers of residential mobility and neighbourhood transitions. Demographic Research. 2017. 36(35): 1015-1038. DOI:  10.4054/DemRes.2017.36.35
Morris TT, Manley DJ, Northstone K, Sabel CE. On the move: Exploring the impact of residential mobility on cannabis use. Social Science & Medicine. 2016. 168: 239–248. Special Issue: Proceedings of the 8th International Symposium in Medical Geography. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.04.036.
Morris TT, Manley DJ, Sabel CE. Residential mobility: Towards progress in health research. Progress in Human Geography. 2016. doi: 10.1177/0309132516649454.
Morris TT, Dorling D, Davey Smith G. How well can we predict educational outcomes? Examining the roles of cognitive ability and social position in educational attainment. Contemporary Social Science. Special Issue: Social Inequality and Its Consequences in the 21st Century. 2016. 11(2): 154-168. doi: 10.1080/21582041.2016.1138502.
Morris TT, Northstone K, Howe LD. Examining the association between early life social adversity and BMI changes in childhood: a life course trajectory analysis. Pediatric Obesity. 2015. 11(4): 306-312. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12063.
Morris T, Northstone K. Rurality and dietary patterns: Associations in a UK cohort study of 10 year olds. Public Health Nutrition. 2015. Jun;18(8): 1436-43. doi: 10.1017/S1368980014001864.


E-mail: Tim.Morris@bristol.ac.uk

Twitter:  @bristimtom