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Professor Dale Hay BA, PhD

Professor Dale Hay


Emerita Professor

+44 (0)29 2087 6503
Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT


Research summary

I study social development in infancy and  childhood, with special emphasis on the developmental origins of cooperation,  conflict, interpersonal relationships and psychopathology. My work has drawn  attention to infants’ early sharing and cooperation, and their abilities to  interact harmoniously with parents and peers.  I have also studied social  learning processes and interpersonal conflict in infancy.  I am a  co-investigator on the South London Child Development Study, which has followed  up a birth cohort of South London children from their mothers’ pregnancies to  adolescence.  My work has demonstrated prenatal and postnatal predictors  of the children’s attention, IQ and proclivities to violence. I am currently  leading the Cardiff Child Development Study (CCDS), a longitudinal study  supported by programme and project funding from the Medical Research Council.  The aims of the CCDS, which brings together both threads of my  research, are to chart normal social and emotional development in the first  eight years of life, with a special emphasis on the development of aggression  and prosocial behaviour, and to identify biological, cognitive and social risk  factors for children’s emotional and behavioural problems. We have identified  individual differences in infants’ anger and use of force that predict to later  physical aggressiveness and related behavioural problems. We have also shown  that parents’ speech to very young infants has long-term effects on their  children’s cognitive and language development.

I am also a  co-investigator on a large national project, Life Study, the next major birth  cohort study of the British population, which is jointly funded by the Economic  and Social Research Council and the Medical Research Council. I have been  providing specialist advice on testing infants at 6 and 12 months in an attempt  to understand the origins of developmental disorders. Previous large cohort  studies in the UK have relied on parents’ reports and have not undertaken  face-to-face assessments of infants. Several assessments I designed for the CCDS are currently being piloted for Life Study.

I teach developmental psychology, with special  emphasis on social and emotional development, developmental psychopathology and  developmental research methods.  In the past I have taught developmental  psychology and research methods to psychology students, social science  students, and trainee psychiatrists. I have co-authored a textbook in  statistics (Everitt & Hay, 1992) and co-edited textbooks on social  psychology (Fraser et al., 2000) and developmental psychopathology (Hay &  Angold, 1993; Rutter & Hay, 1994).  I am now working on a textbook on  emotional development.

Teaching summary

I teach lectures on developmental psychology to Level 2 students and research methods in developmental psychology to Level 3 students.  In the past I have   taught developmental psychology and research methods to psychology students,   social science students, and trainee psychiatrists. I have co-authored a   textbook in statistics (Everitt & Hay, 1992) and co-edited textbooks on   social psychology (Fraser et al., 2000) and developmental psychopathology (Hay   & Angold, 1993; Rutter & Hay, 1994). I am now working on a textbook on emotional development.


Undergraduate education

In 1971 I graduated with a B.A., magna cum laude, from Allegheny College, in Meadville, Pennsylvania, USA, where I attained a liberal arts degree with a distinction in psychology. I was elected to the academic honorary society Phi Beta Kappa and awarded the Eugene and Mary Cease Psychology Award and the Louise Jordan Prize.I presented the findings from my undergraduate research to conferences sponsored by the Sigma Xi Society and to the Ohio Academy of Science.

Postgraduate education

In 1976 I received a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I had been supported by a U.S. Public Health Traineeship and an NICHD research assistantship. My Ph.D. thesis was entitled 'Following their companions as a form of exploration for human infants,’ supervised by Harriet Rheingold.

Honours and awards

Awards/external committees

Foundation for Child Development Young Scholar in Social and Affective Development, 1982

Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge, 1993 to 2000

Personal Readership in Developmental Psychology, University of Cambridge, 1999-2000

I have been Chair of the Developmental Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society

I am Editor of Social Development.

I have been External Examiner for Keele University and the University of Cambridge.

Academic positions

I have worked in psychology, psychiatry, and social science departments, in three countries.

2000 to present: Established Chair in Social Psychology, Cardiff University

1993 to 2000: University Lecturer, promoted to Reader, Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge

1987 to 1993: MRC Scientist, MRC Unit on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, London

1985 to 1987: New Blood Lectureship in Developmental Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, London

1976 to 1985: Assistant Professor, promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Stony Brook, USA

1975 to 1976: Lecturer, promoted to Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Canada























  • Hay, D. F. and Nash, A. 2002. Social development in different family arrangements. In: Smith, P. K. and Hart, C. H. eds. Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Social Development. Blackwell Handbooks of Developmental Psychology Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 238-262.







Research topics and related papers

The work on my laboratory focuses on the early developmental origins of social behaviour, with a particular focus on early peer interaction. We have documented that infants are capable of nonverbal interaction with their peers from 6 months onward.

Several themes are highlighted in my current research on early development and the impact of prenatal and postnatal experiences on children’s risk for later emotional and behavioural problems. These include:

Prenatal and postnatal experiences may have different experiences on different domains of development
Our longitudinal analyses of the South London Child Development Study (SLCDS) have followed up a random sample of children who were born in two of the most disadvantaged communities in the UK. The SLCDS was one of the first studies to assess mothers’ mental health in pregnancy as well as in the months post partum. Maternal depression in pregnancy predicts behavioural problems: adolescents whose mothers were depressed in pregnancy are four times as likely as other teenagers to show violent conduct symptoms and/or engage in violent crime (Hay, Pawlby, Waters, Perra, & Sharp, 2010). In contrast, post partum depression is associated in our study, and in others, with cognitive outcomes. Adolescents whose mothers were depressed at 3 months post partum had significantly lower IQ scores at age 16, even when controlling for mothers’ and fathers’ IQ and many other potential confounds (Hay, Pawlby, Waters, & Sharp, 2008). I propose that prenatal experiences associated with the mother’s mental state influence stress reactivity and self-regulatory systems developing before birth, whereas postnatal experiences influence learning, memory and representation. This hypothesis is now being tested in our new Cardiff Child Development Study (CCDS).

Prosocial skills are impaired in children with behavioural problems, but children with emotional problems may be prosocial
Our studies have shown that early sharing, cooperation, and sensitivity to other people’s distress are almost universally shown in infancy (although these behaviours are not characteristic of children with autism spectrum disorder and related   developmental problems). Individual differences emerge in the preschool years, with some children becoming far less prosocial. Analyses of the South London data set (Hay & Pawlby, 2003) and recent analyses of a study of preschool-aged children in Cardiff (the Starting School Study; Hay, Hudson, & Liang, in press) have shown that prosocial behaviour is negatively associated with behavioural problems. In particular, children with symptoms of ADHD are markedly less prosocial than other children, even when controlling for their level of aggression and other conduct problems. In contrast, in these   samples, there is no association between prosocial behaviour and emotional   problems, and some emotionally troubled children are highly prosocial.

Precursors to aggressiveness can be detected in the first year of life
Although many people think that all infants are naturally aggressive, this is not true. Our observational studies of infants between 6 and 36 months of age have shown that many, though not all infants, try to tug away toys from their peers, but hitting, kicking, and biting are very infrequent, and shown by a minority of infants (e.g., Hay, Castle, & Davies, 2000). In our   new longitudinal study in Cardiff (CCDS), our observations of infants in simulated birthday parties and their parents’ reports confirm this finding. Only a minority of infants show precursors to aggressiveness, and these tendencies are stable over time (Hay et al., under review), and are associated with known   risk factors for physical aggression.


Extension of the Cardiff Child Development   Study (£98.500). Medical Research Council.

Life Study UK Birth Cohort Leadership Team.  Economic and  Social Research Council and Medical Research Council Contract (Co-investigator  with C. Dezateux, PI).  £27,996,612

Early Prediction of Violence and the Disruptive  Behaviour Disorders:  Follow-up of the  Cardiff Child Development Study (with S.  van Goozen, S. Colishaw, Mark Johansen, & Ian Goodyer).  MRC Grant MR/J013366/1, £1,056,708

Research group

The Cardiff Child Development Study Team:
Rebecca Phillips, Ph.D. student
Erika   Baker, Ph.D. student
Victoria Beamish, Ph.D. student
Rhiannon Fyfield
, Ph.D. student (beginning October 2010)
Raffaella Carta
, researcher and video technician
Cerith Waters
, Clinical Psychology   Trainee
Joanne Morgan, Dr Cerith Waters

Research collaborators

Stephanie van Goozen, Cardiff University
Susan Leekam
, Cardiff University
Anita Thapar
, Cardiff University
Gordon Harold
, University of Otago, New Zealand
Ian Goodyer
, University of Cambridge
Oliver Perra
, Queen's University, Belfast
Susan Pawlby
, Institute of Psychiatry
Deborah Sharp, University of Bristol
Andrew Pickles
, University of Manchester
Jonathan Hill, University of Reading
Helen Sharp
, University of Liverpool
Emily Simonoff, Institute of Psychiatry
Tony Charman
, Institute of Education
Carol Dezateux
, Institute of Child Health (and other members of the 2012   leadership team)


Postgraduate research interests

I study social development in infancy and childhood, with special emphasis on cooperation, conflict, interpersonal relationships and the development of psychopathology. I am currently leading a multidisciplinary team in a 5-year study designed to study the developmental origins of violence. Study areas include: the development of irritability, maternal anger and infant anger, the development of fear, fathers’ contributions to their infants’ development and the normative rise and fall in repetitive behaviours.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit an application.

Current students

Erika   Baker (supported by the School of Psychology; S van Goozen, primary   supervisor)
Victoria   Beamish (supported by WORD)
Rhiannon Fyfield (GTA supported by the School of Psychology)
Amy  Paine
Rebecca   Phillips (supported by the School of   Psychology)

Past projects

Previous students

Sheila Pohly, 1979. The development of object and person permanence as a correlate of dimensions of maternal care. State University of   New York at Stony Brook.

Ronald J. Siegel, 1982. Effects of preschool intervention, socioeconomic status, and acquisition of perceptual skills on subsequent verbal   test performance: Longitudinal analyses. State University of New York at Stony   Brook.

Rosemary Krawczyk, 1984. Friendships in a toddler preschool. State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Jo Ellen Vespo, 1985. Children's relationships with friends and acquaintances in preschool classes. State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Marlene Caplan, 1986. The role of aggression in preschoolers' conflicts with their peers. State University of New York at Stony   Brook.

Alison Nash, 1986. Infants’ social competence with their mothers and peers. State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Jan Pedersen, 1986. Young girls' and boys' conflicts with their preschool peers. State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Gerard McCarthy, 1991. Attachment relationships in the preschool years. University of London.

Lisa Davies, 1996. Negotiating the life event of starting school. University of London.

Gesine Schmücker, 1997. Family influences on mothers’ and their children’s affect. University of London.

Karen John, 1997. Adaptive social functioning of children and adolescents: A cross-national study. University of London.

Helen Demetriou, 1998. Young children’s reactions to the distress of their peers. University of London.

Stacey Lee, 1999. Sex differences in depressive symptoms across adolescence.University of Cambridge.

Fumiko Ishikawa, 2003. Dyadic and triadic interaction between newly acquainted two-year-olds. University of Cambridge.

Cerith Spooner Waters, 2008. Young motherhood, maternal psychopathology and children’s cognitive, behavioural and emotional development.   Cardiff University.

Kathryn Hudson