Tanya Byron

Last updated

Tanya Byron
Tanya Byron at the digital inclusion debate-1Dec2009-cropped.jpg
Byron in December 2009
Chancellor of Edge Hill University
In office
Personal details
Born (1967-04-06) 6 April 1967 (age 55)
(m. 1997)
Relatives John Sichel (father)
Elfie Corbet (mother)
Alma mater University of York (BSc)
University College London (MA)
University of Surrey (PhD)
OccupationProfessor of the Public Understanding of Science
Known for Clinical psychology, television and radio presenter

Tanya Byron (born 6 April 1967) [1] is a British psychologist, writer, and media personality, best known for her work as a child therapist on television shows Little Angels and The House of Tiny Tearaways . She also co-created the BBC Two sitcom The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle with Jennifer Saunders, and still contributes articles to various newspapers.


In 2008, she became Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Edge Hill University and is the first and current Chancellor of the same institution.

Early life

Byron's father was the film and television director John Sichel, founder of ARTTS International in Yorkshire. Her mother was a nursing sister and a model. [2]

When Byron was 15 years old, her German-born paternal grandmother was murdered by being battered to death by a woman who abused illicit drugs. Her grandmother knew the woman, who was in pursuit of money. Byron was perplexed by this cruelty, and at about that time she began to try to understand how anyone could do such a terrible thing and began to be interested in psychology. [3]


Byron was educated at North London Collegiate School, University of York (BSc Psychology, 1989), University College London (MSc Clinical Psychology, 1992), and University of Surrey (PhD, 1995). Her PhD thesis was entitled "The evaluation of an outpatient treatment programme for stimulant drug misuse", and was completed at University College Hospital. [4] [5] [6] [7]


Prior to training in Clinical Psychology, Byron worked as a researcher on the BBC's Video Diaries documentary series. Once she qualified, Byron worked in the British National Health Service for 18 years in a number of public health areas such as drug addiction, STDs, and mental disorders. [5]

In 2005, Byron was featured on French and Saunders ' Christmas Special as herself, who came in to sort out Dawn and Jennifer's childish behaviour on the show. Subsequently, she co-wrote the series The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle with Jennifer Saunders. Byron has also co-authored a book on parenting based on the Little Angels show and two other books on child development and parenting, as well as writing weekly articles for The Times and contributing to several women's magazines. She has also worked with the Home Office on the current changes to the Homicide Act as it relates to children and young people, and she also works with the National Family and Parenting Institute advising government and ministers on related policy.

In September 2007, it was announced that she would head an independent review in England – supported by the Department for Children, Schools, and Families, as well as the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport – into the potentially harmful effects of both the Internet and video games on children. [8] This was published in March 2008 as "Safer Children in a Digital World", but is commonly called the Byron Review.

In April 2008, Byron fronted a four-part show called Am I Normal? exploring the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

In May 2008, she was elected as the first Chancellor of Edge Hill University, in Lancashire and installed at a ceremony in December 2008. [9] Edge Hill University also appointed her to the post of Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, and she delivered her inaugural lecture, "The Trouble With Kids", in March the following year. [10]

In 2009, Byron was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of York. [11]

Byron is the patron of Prospex, a charity which works with young people in North London. She is also a partner in a media company, Doris Partnership. [12]

She has published The Skeleton Cupboard: The Making of a Clinical Psychologist in 2015.

Personal life

Byron married The Bill actor Bruce Byron in Barnet, London, in 1997. They have a daughter (born 1995, Hendon, London) and a son (born 1998, Barnet). [13] Tanya and Bruce met when Bruce applied to the very first ARTTS course. [ citation needed ]


Little Angels

Tanya Byron, Stephen Briers, Rachel Morris and Laverne Antrobus became household names working on the British TV show Little Angels (which ran for three series), a docu-soap that follows the lives of families where the children have behavioural problems that are causing the parents difficulty. The show is seen as a 'life line' by the parents who are effectively calling professionals with years of experience of working with children and families to help them fix a problem that they believe beyond their ability to fix. Tanya Byron, Stephen Briers, Rachel Morris and Laverne Antrobus, monitor the behaviour of the family and the children before discussing with the parents the real underlying causes of the problem (which are nearly always in some way either caused by or contributed to by the parents themselves – usually by inadvertently rewarding inappropriate behaviour with their attention). They then discuss a course of action with them and later they coach them in how to change their own and their children's behaviour to improve the situation (this is frequently done in scenes where the family is filmed doing something together with the parents receiving advice from the attending professional via an ear piece). The show is intended to be instructive to viewers in how to deal with common problems as well as of real help to the family being filmed (and of course entertaining).

The House of Tiny Tearaways

In 2005 Tanya began to host her own show called The House of Tiny Tearaways , a reality TV style show that brings three families experiencing problems into a large, purpose-built house where they are monitored and aided for a week. The show is vaguely similar to programmes like Big Brother, in that all the rooms have cameras in them and the families are frequently monitored in their activities with the audience shown highlights of a particular day. Each family stays in the house for six days in which time Tanya monitors them all for one day before having very honest and direct discussions with the parents about the issues and how they can be dealt with, and then guiding the families through courses of action, exercises and deliberate changes of behaviour on the parents' side to deal with the problems. Tanya does not do this entirely singlehandedly, as one element of the programme is the support the parents receive from the other families who are in the house with them at the same time.

The show is characterised by: scenes of children misbehaving, therapy sessions between Tanya and the parents of the children (which are often very emotional and are sometimes the first time they've ever really discussed the problems they're facing), tasks in and outside the house which the families are set to help them practice the skills they've learnt (often having to do things they would normally find difficult, like take a child with eating problems to a restaurant) and by the ending, the families review any improvements or shortcomings they've made.

In 2007, Byron stated that she did not want to make any more television programmes on parenting as it had become "a well-marketed area". [14]

Am I Normal?

In 2008 Tanya presented a four-part series called Am I Normal? exploring the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. The episodes explore the themes of addiction, faith, sex and body image. The programme presents both behaviours and treatments which Dr Byron is able to explore objectively but with some common sense cynicism. Is having sex with 5000 men within the range of normal behaviour? Is being attracted to pre-pubescent girls okay if you don't act on that attraction in a way that harms or coerces them? Are sex addiction or addiction to computer games real physiological addictions? Is hearing God different to hearing voices? These are the questions that she explores, without yielding to the temptation to give easy answers[ citation needed ]. This was based on the radio series presented by Vivienne Parry.


In October 2013, Byron was the guest for BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs . Her choices were "Absolute Beginners" by David Bowie, Baba O'Riley by The Who, Take Five by Dave Brubeck, "I Want That Man" by Debbie Harry, Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps by Doris Day, Uncertain Smile by The The, Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel and That's Life by Frank Sinatra. [15]

In 2020, Byron presented "Word of Mouth", on BBC Radio Four, featuring an investigation into the benefits of talking to strangers. Previously, she presented All in the Mind , a BBC magazine radio programme about psychology and psychiatry. [16]

Related Research Articles

Jennifer Saunders English actress, comedian, singer and screenwriter

Jennifer Jane Saunders is an English actress, comedian, screenwriter, and singer. Saunders originally found attention in the 1980s, when she became a member of The Comic Strip after graduating from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama with her best friend and comedy partner, Dawn French. With French, she co-wrote and starred in their eponymous sketch show, French and Saunders, for which they jointly received a BAFTA Fellowship in 2009. Saunders later received acclaim in the 1990s for writing and playing her character Edina Monsoon in her sitcom Absolutely Fabulous.

Anti-social behaviours are actions that harm or lack consideration for the mental conditioning of others. It has also been defined as any type of conduct that violates the basic rights of another person and any behaviour that is considered to be disruptive to others in society. This can be carried out in various ways, which includes, but is not limited to, intentional aggression, as well as covert and overt hostility. Anti-social behaviour also develops through social interaction within the family and community. It continuously affects a child's temperament, cognitive ability and their involvement with negative peers, dramatically affecting children's cooperative problem-solving skills. Many people also label behaviour which is deemed contrary to prevailing norms for social conduct as anti-social behaviour. However, researchers have stated that it is a difficult term to define, particularly in the United Kingdom where many acts fall into its category. The term is especially used in British English.

Child neglect is a form of abuse, an act of caregivers that results in depriving a child of their basic needs, such as the failure to provide adequate supervision, health care, clothing, or housing, as well as other physical, emotional, social, educational, and safety needs. All societies have established that there are necessary behaviors a caregiver must provide in order for a child to develop physically, socially, and emotionally. Causes of neglect may result from several parenting problems including mental disorders, unplanned pregnancy, substance use disorder, unemployment, overemployment, domestic violence, and, in special cases, poverty.

Child of Our Time is a documentary commissioned by the BBC, co-produced with the Open University and presented by Robert Winston. It follows the lives of 25 children, born at the beginning of the 21st century, as they grow from infancy, through childhood, and on to becoming young adults.

The House of Tiny Tearaways is a British reality TV show hosted by Claudia Winkleman with child therapist Tanya Byron that was produced by Outline Productions. It ran for four series, broadcast from May 2005 to December 2007, on BBC Three. Laverne Antrobus and Elizabeth Kilbey took over Byron's role for the final series in 2007.

Edge Hill University English public university

Edge Hill University is a campus-based public university in Ormskirk, Lancashire, England, which opened in 1885 as Edge Hill College, the first non-denominational teacher training college for women in England, before admitting its first male students in 1959. In 2005, Edge Hill was granted Taught Degree Awarding Powers by the Privy Council and became Edge Hill University on 18 May 2006.

Uta Frith German developmental psychologist, born 1941

Dame Uta Frith is a German-British developmental psychologist at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. She has pioneered much of the current research into autism and dyslexia. She has written several books on these subjects, arguing for autism to be seen as a mental condition rather than as one caused by parenting. Her Autism: Explaining the Enigma introduces the cognitive neuroscience of autism. She is credited with creating the Sally–Anne test along with fellow scientists Alan Leslie and Simon Baron-Cohen. She also pioneered the work on child dyslexia. Among students she has mentored are Tony Attwood, Maggie Snowling, Simon Baron-Cohen and Francesca Happé.

<i>The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle</i> British BBC TV sitcom 2007

The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle is a British sitcom that was originally aired on BBC Two in 2007. The programme was written and created by Jennifer Saunders and Tanya Byron. The show stars Saunders as the title character of the talk show host, a caricature of Jeremy Kyle and other talk show hosts.

Susan Fiona Dorinthea Michie is a British academic, clinical psychologist, and professor of health psychology, director of The Centre for Behaviour Change and head of The Health Psychology Research Group, all at University College London. She is also an advisor to the British Government via the SAGE advisory group on matters concerning behavioural compliance with government regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rainie Cross Fictional character from EastEnders

Rainie Cross is a fictional character from the BBC One soap opera EastEnders, played by Tanya Franks. Introduced as the drug-addicted sister of Tanya Branning, Franks has had three separate guest stints in 2007, 2008 and 2010 and between 12 April and 8 December 2011. Rainie returned on 16 June 2014, when she was revealed as Ian Beale's mystery phone contact, having been with Ian on Good Friday, the night of Lucy Beale's murder but departed again not long after. In January 2015, it was confirmed that Rainie would return for the conclusion of the "Who Killed Lucy Beale?" storyline. Rainie made another guest appearance on 19 January 2018 and returned full-time to the show on 24 April 2018, now married to her former brother-in-law, Max Branning. In June 2022, it was announced that Franks had left the show, with Rainie's final episode airing on 29 June 2022.

Little Angels is a Bafta-nominated British reality television show which ran for five series on BBC Three from February 2004 to October 2005.

The Byron Review, titled "Safer Children in a Digital World", was a report ordered in September 2007 by the then prime minister Gordon Brown and delivered on the 27 March 2008 to the UK Department for Children, Schools and Families. It was authored and overseen by Tanya Byron. The report focussed on the use of video games and the Internet by children, and discussed the use of classification and the role of parenting in policing these.

Vivienne Mary Hunt Parry is a British science journalist and author, currently employed as head of engagement at Genomics England. She is most well known for presenting BBC Television science programme Tomorrow's World and Panorama. She is also a regular contributor to The Guardian newspaper's online presence.

<i>Supernanny</i> British television programme

Supernanny is a British reality television programme about parents struggling with their children's behaviour, mealtime, potty training, etc. The show features professional nanny Jo Frost, who devotes each episode to helping a family where the parents are struggling with child-rearing. Through instruction and observation, she shows parents alternative ways to discipline their children and regain order in their households. Frost is a proponent of the "naughty chair" theory of discipline and is strictly opposed to smacking.

Lucie Green British astronomer

Lucinda "Lucie" May Green is a British science communicator and solar physicist.

Am I Normal? is a programme which is broadcast on Radio Four, presented by Vivienne Parry.

Kimberly Sue Young O'Mara was a psychologist and expert on Internet addiction disorder and online behavior. She founded the Center for Internet Addiction in 1995 while she was a psychology professor at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. Until her death in 2019, Young was a professor of management at St. Bonaventure University. During her career, she published numerous journal articles and book chapters and served as an expert witness regarding her pioneer research including testimony for the Child Protection Online Act Congressional Committee. Young was a member of the American Psychological Association, the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, and a founding member of the International Society of Mental Health Online. Aged 53, Young died of cancer on February 28, 2019.

Margaret Jean Snowling is a British psychologist, and world-leading expert in language difficulties, including dyslexia. She is currently President of St John's College, Oxford and Professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford. Snowling was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2016 for services to science and the understanding of dyslexia. She was born in South Shields.

Jane Wardle FBA FMedSci was a professor of clinical psychology and director of the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London. She was one of the pioneers of health psychology in the UK and internationally, known for her seminal work on the contribution of psychology to public health, particularly the role of psychological research in cancer prevention and work on the behavioural and genetic determinants of eating behaviour and obesity.

Laverne Antrobus British psychologist/author/television presenter

Laverne Antrobus is a British child psychologist. She trained at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in the 1990s. Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Antrobus has hosted documentaries and appeared as an expert on the BBC and Channel 5.


  1. "Weekend Birthdays", The Guardian , p. 52, 5 April 2014
  2. "Professor Tanya Byron". Desert Island Discs . 27 October 2013. BBC. Radio 4 . Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  3. "Saturday Live (includes Tanya Byron as studio guest being interviewed by Fi Glover)". Saturday Live. 29 May 2010. BBC. Radio 4 . Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  4. UCL alumna to head online child protection review. Retrieved on 29 June 2008 from http://www.ucl.ac.uk/alumni/alumni-news/e_news/enews_september2007.
  5. 1 2 "Department for Children, Schools and Families : Byron Review". www.dcsf.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
  6. University of Surrey Library. Retrieved on 29 May 2010 from "TalisPrism". Archived from the original on 30 August 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  7. UCL alumna to head online child protection review. Retrieved on 29 June 2008 from http://www.ucl.ac.uk/alumni/alumni-news/e_news/enews_september2007
  8. "New review helps children and parents get the best from new technologies, while protecting them from harmful images". DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families). Retrieved 9 February 2008.
  9. "Dr Tanya Byron announced as first Edge Hill University Chancellor". Edge Hill University. 13 May 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  10. "Inaugural Lecture: Professor Tanya Byron" . Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  11. University of York (24 January 2009). "University to award three honorary degrees". Press release. Retrieved 31 March 2010
  12. "Doris Partnership website" . Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  13. Marriages and Births England and Wales 1984–2006
  14. "No More Little Angels?". The Division of Clinical Psychology. Retrieved 24 December 2008.
  15. "Professor Tanya Byron". bbc.co.uk. 27 October 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  16. "All in the Mind: Presenters". BBC. Retrieved 3 November 2007.

'The Skeleton Cupboard' Tanya Byron Published June 1st 2014 Macmillan

Academic offices
Preceded by
New position
Chancellor of Edge Hill University
Succeeded by