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Cardiff University study makes babies’ first steps unforgettable

24 June 2008

Cardiff University researchers producing a major record of infant development are inviting mums-to-be to take part in their study.

Led by Dr Merideth Gattis of the School of Psychology, the First Steps project will study babies’ first steps and other developmental milestones from birth onwards.

Parents will be asked to share their children’s landmark moments with University researchers by completing a daily electronic diary and attending monthly breakfast meetings with Dr Gattis and her team.

The team will explore babies’ cognitive, physical, and social developments, recording moments such as when a baby first smiles, holds an object or when they first copy actions, sounds or facial expressions.

The aim of the project is to build a comprehensive catalogue of early human development. Over the course of the research, parents will be given toys and books for their baby, as well as monthly gift vouchers and will be presented with a ‘Memory Book’ containing their baby’s records at the end of the study.

Dr Merideth Gattis said: "Our study begins even before a baby is born so that we can teach expectant parents how to recognise and record behaviours that their baby performs right from birth. Parents know more about their baby than anyone else does and we’re asking them to share their expertise with us. By taking part in our studies, parents can contribute to our understanding of development, and create a keepsake memory of their baby at the same time."

Hannah Raybould is a first-time mum already taking part in First Steps: "The project is a chance to meet other new mums and a great opportunity to track my daughter’s development," said Hannah. "I think she will enjoy interacting with the other babies as they grow up together over the next year and a half."

Kate Beamish, who recently had her fourth child, is also participating in the research: "I work as a Health Visitor and from a personal and professional point of view I thought the study sounded really interesting, said Kate. "My other children are now older (20, 17 and 11 years) so I felt I had some experience I could share and contribute to child development research in this way."

First Steps is funded by The Leverhulme Trust and is a collaboration between Cardiff University, the Max Planck Institute in Germany, and Ryerson University in Canada.

Parents wanting more information on joining the project can contact:

Dr. Merideth Gattis / Dr. Elena Sakkalou

School of Psychology

University of Cardiff

Tower Building

Park Place

Cardiff CF10 3YG

Tel: 02920 876190


Notes to Editors:

1. Cardiff School of Psychology

The School of Psychology is one of Britain 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. It is also ranked as one of the world’s top 100 universities by the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES).

2008 marks the 125th anniversary of Cardiff University having been 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.

Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research universities.

Visit the University website at:

Further Information:

For more information, please contact:

Victoria Dando

Public Relations Office

Cardiff University

Tel: 02920 879074