Professor Karen Thorpe

Professor-Early Childhood Educ&Care

Institute for Social Science Research
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


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

  • 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. In Pernille Hviid and Mariann Martsin (Ed.), Culture in education, education in culture: tensioned dialogues and creative constructions (pp. Unknown-Unknown) Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-28412-1

  • Thorpe, K., Staton, S. and Bekkhus, M (2019). Twins and other multiples. In Stephen Hupp and Jeremy D Jewell (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of Child and Adolescent Development () New York, United States: John Wiley and Sons. doi:10.1002/9781119171492

  • Davidson, Christina, Danby, Susan J. and Thorpe, Karen (2017). "Uh Oh": Multimodal Meaning Making During Viewing of YouTube Videos in Preschool. In 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. In Susanne Garvis and Donna Pendergast (Ed.), Health and wellbeing in the early years 2nd ed. (pp. 141-160) 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. In Sandra Lynch, Deborah Pike and Cynthia à Beckett (Ed.), Multidisciplinary perspectives on play from birth and beyond (pp. 231-245) Singapore: Springer. doi:10.1007/​978-981-10-2643-0

  • Danby, Susan, Davidson, Christina, Given, Lisa and Thorpe, Karen (2016). Composing an email: Social interaction in a preschool classroom. In Susanne Garvis and Narelle Lemon (Ed.), Understanding Digital Technologies and Young Children: An international perspective (pp. 5-17) London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

  • Danby, Susan, Davidson, Christina, Given, Lisa M. and Thorpe, Karen (2016). Composing an email: social interaction in a preschool classroom. In Susanne Garvis and Narelle Lemon (Ed.), Understanding digital technologies and young children: an international perspective (pp. 5-17) London, United Kingdom: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781315753027

  • Houen, Sandra, Danby, Susan, Farrell, Ann and Thorpe, Karen (2016). Web searching as a context to build on young children’s displayed knowledge. In Children's knowledge-in-interaction: studies in conversation analysis (pp. 57-72) Singapore: Springer Singapore. doi:10.1007/978-981-10-1703-2_4

  • 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. In Roxane L Gervais and Prudence M. Millear (Ed.), Exploring Resources, Life-Balance and Well-Being of Women Who Work (pp. 145-159) Cham, Switzerland: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-31736-6_9

  • Theobald, Maryanne, Danby, Susan, Thompson, Catherine and Thorpe, Karen (2014). Friendships. In Susanne Garvis and Donna Pendergast (Ed.), Health and wellbeing in childhood (pp. 114-132) Port Melbourne, Vic, Australia: Cambridge University Press.

  • Thorpe, K. (2014). Language development in twins. In Patricia J. Brooks and Vera Kempe (Ed.), Encyclopedia of language development (pp. Unknown-Unknown) New York, United States: Sage.

  • Thorpe, K., Cloney, D. and Tayler, C. (2010). Rethinking early childhood education and care: Implications for research and evaluation. In 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. In 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. In Alison Pilnick, Jon Hindmarsh and Virginia Teas Gill (Ed.), Communication in healthcare settings: Policy participation and new technologies (pp. 31-47) United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Berryman, J.C.,, Thorpe, K., and Windridge, K.C. (1999). Age and parenting. In Catherine A. Niven and Anne Walker (Ed.), Current issues in infancy and parenthood (pp. na-na) Boston, MA, United States: Butterworth Heinemann.

  • Elliott, S.A. and Thorpe, K. J., (1998). Well-being of mothers. In Anne Walker and Catherine Niven (Ed.), The psychology of reproduction: current issues in infancy and parenthood (pp. Unknown-Unknown) 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

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor