Ugandan mother2Our research group studies the communication and social development of children in their first two years of life. We would like to understand how infants start to communicate and interact with others, particularly how they develop the ability to share attention with others. Sharing attention about objects or events is a key skill for children to develop as it is important for language learning, cooperation and successful social interactions.

In the past, research in this area has mostly focused on children in Western cultures. This means we currently have a very biased view of what factors help joint attention and social skills develop in infants and how joint attention helps later social and communicative skills to emerge. Although we expect children of different cultures to ultimately develop similar skills –  how they get there could differ greatly across cultures.

pexels-photo-459953-e1516796165435.jpegOur ‘Baby Babble’ project therefore involves studying the development of infants in the UK and in Uganda. We follow the infants for the first two years of their lives and try to understand how their different cultural environments might influence their social development. Being able to witness this important period of their lives is a truly wonderful opportunity for us and we are very thankful for all mothers who make it possible!

The project is funded by a European Research Council grant to Dr. Katie Slocombe.

The ‘Baby Babble’ project builds on our previous experience of investigating the development of communication and social behaviour. Dr. Katie Slocombe supervised a project examining interactions between mothers and their eleven-month old infants in the UK and Uganda (which directly inspired and informed the ‘Baby Babble’ project). She has also recently supervised a project examining communication in infants before they could talk, to see whether they tended to use vocalisations or gestures to intentionally communicate with their parents. Joanna Buryn-Weitzel has been involved in research projects that compared the social development of children in Germany and Bolivia. Her research focus lies on helping, sharing, and comforting behaviours and how children develop an understanding of social norms.

Future Research

We have recently been given the exciting opportunity to extend our research until participants reach five years of age. Current participants will find out more at their next visit.