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Parenting beliefs

06 May 2010

New study examines how care giving shapes infant development

Parents are being asked to share their own experiences of caring for their child to help build a more complete picture of infant development as part of a new study by Cardiff University.

Alice Winstanley of the School of Psychology is leading a research project exploring the strategies that parents adopt in caring for children and how those strategies affect children.

To date, much research has shown the ways in which early childhood development can be shaped by warm and sensitive social environments and the different types of interaction a newborn baby has with its parents. However, it is not clear whether parenting strategies are present at the time of birth or are learned as a result of the experiences parents face following the birth of their child.

Parents are being invited to complete an online questionnaire to give feedback on their baby’s behaviour, in particular their baby’s sleeping, feeding and crying habits. Parents are also asked to describe their habits and strategies in caring for their baby.

The survey takes around ten minutes to complete and all responses will be anonymous. The data will be used to look at whether and how parents’ opinions and experiences of care giving vary in the general population. It is hoped that the research will shed light on why people choose to care for their baby in different ways.

Speaking about the study, Alice said: "Despite the large number of books and advice available to parents about how to care for their baby, there is very little data about whether and when parents adopt this advice. In addition, we know very little about how different approaches to care giving can shape babies’ development. The aim of this study is to begin bridging this gap.

"Filling in the picture of a child’s development is important because understanding the many paths of development will inform parenting and education programmes for children, as well as public policy."

The research team is seeking parents who are expecting a child or who have a baby under 18-months-old to take part in the study. The Baby Care Questionnaire can be found at . Parents without internet access can take part by requesting a questionnaire from the Development@Cardiff Research Group at 029 2087 6190.

As well as providing information about parenting strategies the results will also inform a future longitudinal study looking into the social and cognitive needs of premature babies.


Notes to editors

1. Cardiff School of Psychology
The School of Psychology is one of Britain's top-rated schools of psychology, it being the first to achieve the double accolade of the highest grade of merit for both research and teaching. In an independent assessment of teaching, conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales it was rated ‘Excellent’, and in the latest Research Assessment Exercise it was awarded the highest level of distinction, Grade 5A, indicating research of a uniform international standard. The School is one of the largest Schools of psychology in the United Kingdom. It currently has some 40 full-time teaching staff, including 12 professors, alongside 40 full-time research staff, and nearly 60 research students.

The School’s researchers are aligned with five focal areas:

Behavioural neuroscience (understanding the mechanism of learning and memory)
Cognitive ergonomics (human factors and human-computer interaction)

Cognition and neuropsychology (understanding how we see, hear, remember, solve problems, learn language, etc)

Personal relationships (in particular romantic relationships, family relationships, children peer interactions, and the elderly)

Social cognition (stereotyping, causal attribution, the self, intergroup relationships, and social influence)

2. Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.

3. For further information

Victoria Dando

Public Relations

Cardiff University

Tel: 02920 879074