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Developmental Psychology

psychology studies

Developmental Psychology Research Group

Overview

The Developmental Psychology Research Group joins together psychologists, neuroscientists and comparative developmental psychologists. Using a range of techniques such as high-density EEG, near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and eye-tracking, along with observational and qualitative methodology, we explore different aspects of brain, cognitive and social development from birth and throughout the life span. Our projects actively engage with children growing up in East London, which is one of the most socioeconomically and demographically diverse areas of the UK.

Early Development

The UEL BabyDevLab (led by Dr Sam Wass) hosts a number of current research projects funded by the ESRC, the Leverhulme Trust, the Rett Syndrome Research Trust, the UBEL DTP Partnership, the LISS DTP Partnership, and others. The main aim of this research is to explore how children’s early life, including the home environment that they are growing up in, affects their later school readiness and mental health outcomes.  To do this they use a variety of innovative techniques including dual parent-child EEG, miniaturised microphones, cameras and stress monitors that can be worn by babies and parents in the home, and others.  Read more information

We are also interested in cognitive development in early infancy, and the underlying causes of sex differences in mental rotation (e.g. focusing on hormonal and parental contributions to infants' mental rotation abilities - Dr Miha Constantinescu).

High-risk groups

Researchers at UEL (led by Dr Emma Howarth) are currently leading a feasibility trial (FReDA: Family Recovery After Domestic Abuse) to evaluate a group-based psycho-educational programme for children and their female caregivers, and to consider whether this type of intervention would be helpful for victimised male caregivers. Read more. Working with the Children and Families and Research Policy Unit, hosted at UCL, they are also leading a study to explore outcome measurement in the context of evaluation of targeted psycho-social interventions for children and families experiencing domestic abuse and/or child maltreatment. They are also working with colleagues at University of Central Lancashire to evaluate the impact of programmes delivered by leading domestic abuse organisations, which is funded by the Big Lottery. The group will be leading the third year programme of work concerning interventions to tackle domestic abuse and mental health difficulties. Read more.

Social/Communicative Development and Identity

Interacting with others is effective for social development. Our research investigates how skills in social cognition, communication, speech and language develop from birth through to early adulthood. Dr Virginia Lam is programme leader for the BSc Child Psychology. Her research interests include the development of social cognition, particularly of children growing up in diversity.

The research of Dr Virginia Lam has focused on links between identity, and intergroup issues, such as a previous project on Britishness, outgroup attitudes and sport participation of Newham children and adolescents through the 2012 Games. Dr Virginia Lam is leading a funded project on growing up bilingual where it tracks longitudinally the cognitive and social development of bilingual children that attend additional heritage language and culture tuition (complementary education) and those that do not (mainstream sector). The project examines cognitive function, attentional control and social competences and identity in relation to language proficiency and usage, in particular among Russian, Albanian, Tamil and Gujarati-speaking children, over three years.

Wellbeing and Life-Span Development

We aim to obtain a greater understanding of how humans develop, mentally, socially and behaviourally, throughout the life span from infancy to old age. We investigate various factors such as environment that may impact on an individual’s wellbeing and development. We also monitor changes in development and consider factors contributing to individual differences. Dr Matteo Martini leads research investigating the effects of short bouts of physical activity on the older adults' cognition. In particular, a study of how the 'higher order' cognitive functions, like the executive functions, are affected by ageing and how physical activity may boost their optimal functioning is taken in consideration. In his studies both the individual performance at cognitive tests and the metabolic prefrontal activity (via a functional near infrared spectroscopy device) are measured.

We are also interested in cognitive development in early infancy, and the underlying causes of sex differences in mental rotation (e.g. focusing on hormonal and parental contributions to infants' mental rotation abilities - Dr Miha Constantinescu).

Identity

The research of Dr Virginia Lam focuses on links between British identity, intergroup attitudes, competitiveness and sport participation of Newham children and adolescents and how these changed since the 2012 Games. Recently, she has begun new lines of research investigating links between social identity and psychological wellbeing (self-esteem, body image satisfaction and depression) or political attitudes (on immigration, devolution and the EU) in late adolescents and young adults. Dr Virginia Lam is leading a funded project on growing up bilingual where it tracks longitudinally the cognitive and social development of bilingual children that attend additional heritage language and culture tuition (complementary education) and those that do not (mainstream sector). The project examines cognitive function, attentional control and social competences and identity in relation to language proficiency and usage, in particular among Russian, Albanian, Tamil and Gujarati-speaking children, over three years.

Other projects from the Developmental Group include studies investigating the impact of prenatal drug exposure on babies’ long-term developmental outcomes (DAISY); the impact of drinking water on children's cognitive abilities (Caroline Edmonds) and factors that influence the psychological wellbeing of adolescents (Well London study).