Welcome to the Offord Centre for Child Studies!

The Offord Centre for Child Studies is a multi-disciplinary research institute established in 1992.  Through collaboration across fields such as child psychiatry, psychology, epidemiology, pediatrics, policy development, social work, and nursing, the Offord Centre’s aim is to better understand children’s mental health with the overall goal of improving the lives of children and youth.

Our History

The Offord Centre for Child Studies was established in 1992 and founded by the late Dr. Dan Offord. Dr. Offord brought together researchers and clinicians from multiple disciplines at McMaster University to form an institute, conducting population studies into a broad range of areas affecting child and youth health/mental development, communication and behaviour. Initially, the centre was called the Canadian Centre for Studies of Children and Risk, later renamed in 2002 to The Offord Centre for Child Studies.

McMaster University located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Child psychiatrist Dr. Dan Offord believed it was necessary to “make the race fair” for all kids.

Meet Dr. Dan Offord

Dr. David (Dan) Offord (1934-2004) was a leading expert on child development, a child psychiatrist, clinician and research scientist. He believed in tracking the trajectories of children’s lives, noting it was vital to improve their health and well-being. Dr. Offord asserted that data collection was essential in childhood research. Data leads to the identification of evidence that helps formulate, deliver, evaluate, and refine solutions.

Beginning in the 1980s, Dr. Offord addressed the general lack of evidence-based research about the mental and emotional development of children in Canada. He understood there was a need to learn about and address the concerns of children on a broader scale beyond the one-on-one interactions of a psychiatrist’s office. To address this issue, he initiated the landmark 1983 Ontario Child Health Study (OCHS).

The Ontario Child Health Study (OCHS)

Before its conception as a research centre in 1983, Dr. Offord began Canada’s first large-scale observational study of children within families, the Ontario Child Health Study (OCHS). The critical study discovered that one in five children experienced some form of mental health concern. In the following years of 1987, 2001 and 2014, the OCHS surveyed thousands of the same children again to determine health concerns, how those concerns related to family, community, and schooling issues, and whether children experienced reduced opportunities or success in subsequent years. The results drew attention to a hidden health burden related to childhood anxiety, depression, aggression and other psychological and behavioural concerns and conditions. The OCHS was a ground-breaking research project, with its findings influencing policies and decision-making and its legacy still resonating throughout the Offord Centre today.

Offord Centre Leadership Timeline

Dr. Dan Offord

As the founder of the Offord Centre, Dr. Dan Offord was the first director of the centre, leading from 1992 until his death in 2004.

Dr. Peter Szatmari

Dr. Peter Szatmari, one of the earliest core members of the Offord Centre, served one year as Acting Director following the death of founding director Dr. Offord in April 2004. He served as full time Director from 2005-2013.

Dr. Michael Boyle

In April 2014, Dr. Michael Boyle was named the new Director for the Offord Centre. In collaboration with Dr. Offord, Dr. Boyle was responsible for the OCHS in 1983 and its follow-ups in 1987, 2001, and 2014. He is considered one of Canada’s leading experts on the determinants of child health.

Dr. Ellen Lipman

In July 2016, Dr. Ellen Lipman became the new Director of the Offord Centre. Dr. Lipman is the Chief of Hamilton Health Sciences’ Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She has led many studies that examine the mental health of children and youth, exploring the evaluation of intervention programs in clinics and communities.

Dr. Stelios Georgiades

Dr. Stelios Georgiades took on the role of Director for the Offord Centre in September 2022. Dr. Georgiades’ research examines the life trajectories and development of children with autism and neurodevelopmental conditions.

A Tribute to Dan

Dr. Offord was ‘Dan’ to friends, colleagues and staff alike and was known for his unassuming nature, exuberance and passionate desire to make the game of life fair for all children. As director of a summer camp for disadvantaged children, Christie Lake Kids, Dan’s experiences led him to realize the importance of family and environment and how these two factors affect the well-being of children. He cared deeply about the inequalities that left children facing obstacles in childhood and often in consequence, throughout life.

As an educator in the McMaster University Faculty of Healthy Sciences, Dan helped train a generation of students not only to pay attention to environmental, social and socioeconomic factors that help shape children’s mental and physical development, but also to find ways of counteracting negative factors. Dan helped increase the value and importance of social science research into issues such as childhood anger, aggression, anxiety, bullying, antisocial behaviour, readiness for school and school-related anxiety. His impact extended beyond research.

He was eager to find best practices and practical solutions for problems through thoughtful, evidence-based research and evaluation. The Offord Centre is a legacy to that goal.

“Kids in Canada feel they are in a race. It is our job as adults to make sure that the race is fair for them, to level the playing field.”

– Dr. Dan Offord

Learn more about Dr. Dan Offord’s achievements below:

  • The Golden Jubilee Medal
  • 2001 Order of Canada
  • National Health Scientist award from Health and Welfare Canada
  • Atkinson Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
  • Awards from the American Public Health Association, the Psychology Foundation of Canada, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Orthopsychiatric Association, and the Canadian Paediatric Society.

Dan Offord was author of over 200 peer-reviewed publications on children’s mental health, disadvantaged children, mental health policy for children, antisocial behaviour, child psychiatric epidemiology, community programs for children, and the Early Years.

See PubMed or Google Scholar for more details about publications.

Dr. Offord earned an MD in 1957 from Queen’s University and a fellowship in psychiatry in 1965. He became a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University in 1978.

  • Policy Advisory Work
  • The Ontario Mental Health Foundation
  • The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services
  • Institute of Medicine
  • National Academy of Sciences
  • Premier’s Council on Health, Well-being, and Social Justice.
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