Professor Karen Thorpe

Karen Thorpe is a Life Course Centre Chief Investigator and Deputy Director-Research at the Institute for Social Science Research at The University of Queensland. Karen’s research is in developmental science with particular interest in the effects of early childhood parental and non-parental care experiences on trajectories of health, education and social inclusion across the life course. This includes extensive research on early childhood education and care as a mechanism for social equity. She has achieved significant impact in translating this research, which was most recently cited in the OECD report ‘Good Practice for Good Jobs in Early Childhood Education and Care’.

Karen is also undertaking research on food and sleep insecurity as indicators of family stress and predictors of child outcomes. This includes examining the impact of ‘fussy’ child eating behaviours in low-income households, which represents Stage 1 of the Life Course Centre-supported Mealtimes Matter research project. Parental and infant mental health in vulnerable families is another area of research focus for Karen and her team.

In 2019, Karen was named in The Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence, after she was previously featured in the 2013 awards. These awards recognise Australia’s most influential, inspirational and visionary women. Finalists are selected on a number of criteria, including dedicating their time and energy to helping and encouraging other women in their industry, confronting unfairness, and using their skills and ability to help change the status quo to a more equal, diverse and vibrant society.


Chief Investigator


  • Education

  • Psychology

  • Sociology