Investigating the role of family and school in children’s socio-emotional development and mental health whilst considering the interplay of genetics and experience.
The Nurture Lab conducts interdisciplinary research to better understand the role of children’s family and school experiences for development.
Our work uses approaches from family and school psychology, intervention, behavioural genetics, and machine learning. We address questions such as:
- How do family dynamics influence socio-emotional development?
- How can schools and families work together to improve children’s mental health and wellbeing?
- What part do genetics play in children’s experience?
- How can we advance our methodologies to diversify and expand family research and practice?
- Why do interventions work for some and not others?
- How can AI/machine learning approaches help broaden reach of research and intervention?
- Lab members
- Pinar Acet
- Abigail Burgess
- Key collaborations
- Research projects
Originally run as part of the Nurture Lab when it was based in Sussex (2012-2017), TFaB is a longitudinal twin study. The study helps us to explore children’s behaviour and family relationships with the help of around 300 families with twins born in 2009/2010 across the UK. Over a four year period, participating parents kindly completed questionnaires, a telephone interview, and a parent-child interactive game online. We have published some findings already, and still have lots to learn from this data.
With the help of TFaB families, we designed a new methodology that provides researchers and practitioners the means to study family relationships in depth. This methodology allows us to ‘visit’ families in their own homes, without the need for real home visits. When we designed the methodology, we had no idea how pertinent it would prove to be for 2020 and beyond.
Headspace for parents
Led by PhD student, Abigail Burgess, and funded by the ESRC, this project focuses on a popular self-directed health app, Headpace, which supports and bolsters mindfulness and sleep.
For the first time, the project considers Headspace as a support for parents, aiming to improve their ability to cope with stress, and as a consequence improve their children’s wellbeing. We also focus on understanding the specific components of the app that are shown to be useful.
Mindful parenting: parent and child perspectives
Led by PhD student, Pinar Acet and funded by the Ministry of National Education, Republic of Turkey, this project is focused on mindful parenting skills that occur during child-parent interaction.
Pinar aims to identify the determinants of mindful parenting and to understand how children’s perceptions of the mindful parenting skills of their parents associates with their well-being.
- Free, validated method for collecting family interactions online
The ‘Etch-a-Sketch Online’ (ESO; Oliver & Pike, 2019) task is a methodology that allows the collection of parent-child interactions online, without the need for home- or lab-visits. ESO was validated and published three months before the first UK COVID-19 lockdown.
Predicated on a long tradition of structured-play observations, the original rationale for designing ESO was two-fold. First, we were looking to address the need to better understand family relationships with detailed assessments suitable for large-scale studies. Until ESO, because resources are limited, studies that have such detail tend to lack power, and studies that have power tend to lack nuance.
Second, even if we overcome the problem of resource-need to enable detailed face-to-face assessment at scale, travel to and from numerous family homes is no longer ecologically viable or ethical.
ESO is available wherever there is internet (the site allows translation into numerous languages), and is very flexible. It can be used with different stimuli, coding schemes, and interaction times, as well as different participants (e.g., parents and children, siblings, peers).
So far, it has been used with children aged from three- to 12-years old, within both clinically-relevant and non-clinical settings, with various stimuli and coding schemes.
There are two versions of the task:
Prototype version. This version has validation data (Oliver & Pike, 2019). However please note that this version cannot be used with touch-screen devices.
The second version of ESO is a more flexible version of the task. ESO II does NOT have validation data but can be used on touch-screen and non-touch screen devices. Note that the functionality of ESO II has been kept as similar to the original validated ESO tool as possible.
The site will:
- Automatically detect a touchscreen device and employ touch-screen functionality where it is available.
- Allow any new drawing stimuli to be uploaded, ensuring the task is able to adapt according to user need.
- Farley, L., Oliver, B. R. and Pike, A. (2021). A Multilevel Approach to Understanding the Determinants of Maternal Harsh Parenting: the Importance of Maternal Age and Perceived Partner Supp. Journal of Child and Family Studies.
- Toivainen, T., Madrid-Valero, J. J., Chapman, R., McMillan, A., Oliver, B. R., & Kovas, Y. (2021). Creative expressiveness in childhood writing predicts educational achievement beyond motivation and intelligence: A longitudinal, genetically informed study. British Journal of Educational Psychology. doi:10.1111/bjep.12423
- Latham, R. M., Mark, K. M., and Oliver, B. R. (2018). Coparenting and children's disruptive behavior: Interacting processes for parenting sense of competence. Journal of Family Psychology, 32 (1), 151-156. doi:10.1037/fam0000362
- Oliver, B. R., and Pike, A. (2018). Mother-Child Positivity and Negativity: Family-Wide and Child-Specific Main Effects and Interactions Predict Child Adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 54 (4), 744-756. doi:10.1037/dev0000467
- Leijten, P. H. O., Melendez-Torres, G. J., and Oliver, B. R. (in press). Parenting Programs to Improve Sibling Interactions: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Family Psychology. doi:10.1037/fam0000833
- Oliver, B. R. (2021). ESO before and after lockdown: Getting a head-start with online family methodology. BPS Developmental Forum, 93.
- Ahmadzadeh, Y., Lester, K. J., Oliver, B. R. and McAdams, T. A. (2020). The Parent Play Questionnaire: Development of a parent questionnaire to assess parent-child play and digital media use. Social Development. doi:10.1111/sode.12450
- Oliver, B. R. and Pike, A. (2020). Bringing nuanced parent-child observation to scale. BPS Developmental Forum, 91.
- Ahmadzadeh, Y. I., Eley, T. C., Plomin, R., Dale, P. S., Lester, K. J., Oliver, B. R. and McAdams, T. A. (2019). Children of the Twins Early Development Study (CoTEDS): A Children-of-Twins Study. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 22 (6), 514-522. doi:10.1017/thg.2019.61
- Oliver, B. R. and Pike, A. (2019). Introducing a Novel Online Observation of Parenting Behavior: Reliability and Validation. Parenting: Science and Practice. doi:10.1080/15295192.2019.1694838
- Latham, R. M., Mark, K. M., and Oliver, B. R. (2019). Mothers’ and fathers’ perceptions of marital relationships and coparenting twins during school transition. Journal of Family Studies. doi:10.1080/13229400.2019.1667411
- Latham, R. M., Mark, K. M. and Oliver, B. R. (2017). A harsh parenting team? Maternal reports of coparenting and coercive parenting interact in association with children's disruptive behaviour. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58 (5), 603-611. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12665
- Pike, A. and Oliver, B. R. (2017). Child Behavior and Sibling Relationship Quality: A Cross-Lagged Analysis. Journal of Family Psychology, 31 (2), 250-255. doi:10.1037/fam0000248
- Oliver, B. R. (2017). Editorial: Special Issue Behavioural Genetics. Psychopathology Review, a4 (1), 1-3. doi:10.5127/pr.045415
- Mark, K. M., Pike, A., Latham, R. M. and Oliver, B. R. (2017). The Maternal Emotional Climate Predicts Twin Sibling Relationship Quality. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 20 (2), 150-160. doi:10.1017/thg.2017.8
- Mark, K. M., Pike, A., Latham, R. M. and Oliver, B. R. (2017). Using Twins to Better Understand Sibling Relationships. Behavior Genetics, 47 (2), 202-214. doi:10.1007/s10519-016-9825-z
- Pike, A. and Oliver, B. R. (2015). Parenting in childhood. Gene-Environment Interplay in Interpersonal Relationships Across the Lifespan (pp. 57-81). doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-2923-8_3
- Oliver, B. R. (2015). Unpacking externalising problems: Negative parenting associations for conduct problems and irritability. BJPsych Open, 1 (1), 42-47. doi:10.1192/bjpo.bp.115.000125
- Blog posts
- The Parent Challenge: Who gets the message? the EDIT lab blog, 19 July 2021.
- Remote data collection for large-scale longitudinal research: reflections from the pre- and lessons for the post-pandemic era. CLOSER blog, 7 August 2020.
- Family research just got harder… and more important. The Psychologist, 3 April 2020.