The Young Voices Study

Principal Investigator: Dr Sarah Parry

Project Fact File

Start DateFebruary 2017
End DateOngoing
FundingHealth Accelerator Award
Funded by

University of Manchester

Manchester Metropolitan University

Project TeamDr Sarah Parry
Professor Rebecca Lawthom
External Providers and CollaboratorsDr Filippo Varese - University of Manchester
Professor Tony Morrison - University of Manchester
The Voice Collective
The Hearing Voices Network
Psychosis Research Centre
Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust
Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Principal Investigator

Meet Dr Sarah Parry

Dr Sarah Parry

Senior Clinical Lecturer

Phone +44 (0)161 247 5796

Project Details


Although the way we view and support people with mental health difficulties has improved over the years, experiences such as hearing voices and seeing visions are often still associated with “severe and enduring mental illness”. However, what is less well-known about these voices and visions is that they are surprisingly common – especially when growing up. Around 8% of young people are thought to hear voices at some stage in childhood, with up to 75% having a one-off experience of voice hearing. This makes hearing voices about as common for young people as having asthma or dyslexia. For many children, then, it seems that hearing voices is a pretty normal part of growing up.

“Although many people hear voices at some stage in their younger years, little research involving children and their parents/guardians has been done to look at the impact of these experiences for families. We know that young people often require different forms of support, compared to adult voice-hearers, and we are keen to hear what young people and their families would recommend, what they have found helpful, and perhaps what assumptions need to be explored further. Our early data suggests that the voices can be perceived very positively by young people, with one young person stating that their voices are ‘actually pretty cool’ and another describing how the voices ‘help me with problems I'm having and have actually helped me in school as well!’ One parent also discussed the view that his daughter’s voices seemed to him ‘a naturally developed coping mechanism’. We are really excited to hear more about the helpful and more challenging aspects of hearing voices.”

Dr Sarah Parry 

Aims and Objectives

This study aims to explore the individual and systemic experiences of voice hearing for young people, as well as factors that influence voice related distress within families. This is the first study of its kind to seek first person accounts from young people who hear voices and their parents/carers, nationally and internationally.

We are trying to understand more about the experience of hearing voices for young people and their parents/carers. The experience of hearing voices can also be called having auditory verbal hallucinations, and means hearing a voice or voices that other people cannot hear. Hearing voices is much more common than people sometimes think, with around 1 in 12 young people thought to hear a voice or voices at some stage in their childhood.


With very little research in this area currently, we are hoping to gather and analyze enough data to inform the development of a novel family-focused intervention to support young people who hear voices and their families in a helpful way.

New Resources

Recommendations from the Young Voices Study

"Don't worry, as you are not alone."

Hearing voices and seeing visions is not uncommon in childhood. If they worry you or are upsetting, try to talk to someone you trust. If you like having voices and visions, that's absolutely fine too! Everyone's experience is unique to them. 

“My recommendation is to find ways to channel your voices, put all of their energy into things you love.” - Everyone is different, find what works for you! Sarah Parry, Manchester Metropolitan University.

See our recent recommendations from the Young Voices Study, especially suited for those hearing voices and seeing visions.



What is 'multiplicity'? 

'The experience of having more than one person, self or identify within the body'.

Lots of young people, all over the world, talk about the experience of having more than one person, self or identify within their body. This experience can be known as multiplicity, although there are lots of different words used to describe it.

We all show different parts of ourselves to different people, and in different situations. Like we might behave differently with our mum or dad than with a friend. And we can also feel conflict within ourselves' for example, sometimes, a part of us wants to go out, but another wants to stay at home. But for some young people, the experience of having different parts or selves is a lot stronger than this, and it may be an experience that’s difficult to make sense of, or cope with.

We'll have a new resource coming soon which is focused on multiplicity; the experience, coping strategies, and how to get support.


Taboo Voices

What’s a ‘taboo’ voice, or vision?

When an experience is described as ‘taboo’, it means it’s one that’s not usually talked about among a particular group of people, community or society, because it can bring up a lot of difficult thoughts, memories or feelings that can be frightening, upsetting, painful and shameful.

Read our new resource to better understand taboo voices, dealing with such experience, and how to get support.


Useful links

We've been shortlisted

Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences‌


How can I take part?

We would like to invite you to take part in our study if you hear voices or if you are the parent/carer of a young person who hears or has heard voices.

We are looking for people who:

For more information please contact at

Survey for children and young people Survey for parents and guardians

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