Professor Karen Thorpe

Professorial Research Fellow

Queensland Brain Institute


Karen Thorpe is Group Leader in Child Development, Education and Care at the Institute for Social Science Research. Her research examines the effects of children’s early life experiences on social, learning and health trajectories across the lifespan. Her particular interest is early childcare and education environments including parenting, parent work, quality of care and education, and the early years workforce. 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; in partnership with Queensland Government, Goodstart Early Learning and the Creche and Kindergarten Association, led a study of the Australian ECEC workforce (ARC Linkage). In 2013 and again in 2019 she 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.Karen chairs the Australian Early Years Reference Council,whose remit is to build a strong evidence base for translation into policy and practice in early chidhood education and care.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Bristol


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Book Chapter

  • Sullivan, Victoria, Sak, Ramazan and Thorpe, Karen (2020). 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. (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 (2020). Researching men’s career trajectories in ECEC. Exploring Career Trajectories of Men in the Early Childhood Education and Care Workforce. (pp. 43-56) Abingdon, Oxon United Kingdom: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781003048473-6

  • 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.

  • Sullivan, V., Sak, R. and Thorpe, K. (2020). The everyday experiences of workplace relationships as factors affecting the retention and exit of male educators in Early Education and Care. 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. edited by Stephen Hupp and Jeremy D Jewell. New York, United States: John Wiley and Sons. doi: 10.1002/9781119171492.wecad219

  • 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

  • Sarmardin, D., Leske, R., Woods, A. and Thorpe, K. (2019). ‘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. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

  • 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. (pp. 233-255) 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, S.,, Davidson,C., Theobald, M.,, Houen, S., and Thorpe, K. (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

  • 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) Singapore: Springer Singapore. 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. London, 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. (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.

  • 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 — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor