The Developmental Psychology Research Group at Liverpool Hope University aims to advance our knowledge of how humans develop from early childhood to adulthood. We use a broad range of methods (eg laboratory-based experiments, surveys, interviews, ethnographic, longitudinal designs, cross-cultural studies, etc). The main objective is to understand the cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioural factors that promote positive psychological functioning and wellbeing across different populations (eg typically developing children, adolescents, and adults, as well as those with developmental disorders or mental health conditions).
The Developmental Psychology Research Group joins together psychologists, stakeholders, practitioners, policy-makers, with young people and families to advance our understanding of the important issues in their lives. We focus on cognitive (learning, language and literacy), social (environment, relationships) and emotional (mood, regulation, motivation) approaches to translate the factors that promote good psychological functioning and wellbeing across different populations and contexts.
Our research projects actively engage with children growing up in the Liverpool region which is one of the most socioeconomically diverse areas of the UK. We use a broad range of methods including, surveys, interviews, experiments, ethnographic, longitudinal designs, cross-cultural studies.
In addition to carrying out research, we engage in consultancy activities, which include evaluations of treatment and intervention programmes, as well as workshops in schools and with families in the community.
If you would like to enquire more about the work of the Developmental Psychology team please contact:
Dr Lorna Bourke
Developmental Psychology Research Group Leader
T: 0151 291 3077
Dr Laura Adnum (Public Health and Social Care)
Dr Lorna Bourke (Psychology)
Dr Simon Davies (Psychology)
Dr Wing Kai Fung (Early Childhood)
Dr Julie Hadwin (Psychology)
Linda Kerr (Early Childhood)
Dr Jamie Lingwood (Psychology)
Dr Pinar Oztop (Early Childhood)
Dr Elizabeth Parr (Initial Teacher Education)
Dr Marta Wesierska (Psychology)
Postgraduate Doctoral Students
Latest externally funded project news
PSS Better Start for Life Evaluation
PI Dr Lorna Bourke Co-I Dr Laura Adnum, Dr Jamie Lingwood , Advisor Dr Malcolm Carey (Social Work)
PSS Rita Chambers (Service Manager), Sarah Dewick (Service Manager), Dr Michael Galbraith (Clinical Psychologist and Family Therapist, Growing Together Clinical Lead)
PSS is a social enterprise group that provides a range of social care and psychological services to support people who may have disabilities, challenges with mental health, and come to the attention of the criminal justice system. More generally they provide assistance to families that experience instability and upheaval to help improve their lives. The Better Start for Life psychological intervention is aimed at encouraging parents who would not normally access support to take up opportunities for psychological treatments to develop stable relationships with their child(ren); mothers struggling with postnatal depression; and fathers indicating challenges with drugs and/or alcohol. The therapeutic service has two main aims:  To improve parental mood (and reduce anxiety and depression)  To increase parental sensitivity towards the needs of the child(ren). The main aim of the evaluation is to develop a coherent narrative about how and why the parent-focused intervention works; to inform a wider range of health and social care professionals to facilitate the delivery of the intervention across different settings.
Economic and Social Research Council
The impact of book familiarity and book type on children and caregivers during shared book reading (Funded by Economic Social and Research Council).
PI Dr Jamie Lingwood
Interactive shared book reading has been shown to support a range of early language skills including vocabulary, phonological awareness, and grammar knowledge (Noble et al., 2019). But what is unclear from the literature on shared book reading, is the impact of the book itself. Specifically, it is not known how book familiarity and book type impact on the interaction. Using the LuCID 0-5 dataset, this project will investigate book familiarity and book type during shared book reading. We will establish how these each relate to  children’s language,  children’s engagement and  caregiver’s behaviours, using previously established coding schemes (see Lingwood et al., 2022). The research project's findings will be translated into accessible and practical guides for parents, educators, and policymakers.
Evaluating the Love To Read Reception programme
PI Dr Jamie Lingwood
In the earliest stages of learning to read, it is essential that children are not only taught the necessary skills to become independent readers, but that they also develop a love and interest in books and reading, and choose to read (both independently and with others) outside of school. The Love to Read Reception Programme has been created to introduce and embed six research-informed principles to initiate and sustain a reading for pleasure culture in reception year children in England. It will focus on fostering reading enjoyment (positive attitudes towards books and reading), skills (to self-select books they will enjoy) and behaviour (volitional independent and shared reading). It aims to develop teachers’ depth of research knowledge in this area, embedding this within the context of pedagogical practices to support children’s reading attitudes, skills and behaviours. The outcomes of the research project will be disseminated through workshops and resource-sharing sessions with educators, ensuring the practical application of the findings in classrooms and facilitating the programme’s broader adoption in early education settings.
Writing over Time
Writing over Time
PIs Dr Victorina Gonzalez-Dias (University of Liverpool), Dr Elizabeth Parr (Teacher Education)
Writing over Time is a project about writing, children and Liverpool. (Funded by the University of Liverpool)
It explores whether (and how) writing produced by schoolchildren in the Merseyside area may have changed across time (before and after the Digital Turn and the implementation of the National Curriculum). Our interest is both linguistic and educational: we are not only passionate about language (and language change) but also about translating research into tangible outcomes for the benefit of the wider educational community.
One focus of the Writing Over Time team is developing new ways of addressing the ‘gender gap’ in primary school’s writing performance in the Liverpool area. This is in partnership with the Liverpool City Council and is a two-phased project. In the first phase (February 2022- February 2023) we collected and analysed different types of writing-related data (questionnaires and focus groups on writing preferences and attitudes, primary schoolchildren’s mini-essays).
The results from this data were then developed into a series of recommendations on children’s writing and the gender-gap and distributed to education leads, teachers and teacher educators. The recommendations were also presented to the Liverpool Education and Skills committee back in July 2022 and turned into a Heseltine Policy Briefing in the autumn of 2022.
Reading and writing
We are interested in encouraging people to take pleasure in reading and writing. To do this, we undertake a number of different projects with schools and community groups; ranging from exploring the impact of  individual differences in underlying cognitive mechanisms (e.g., attention, memory) and language skills to answer questions about why some young people are not achieving the expected Government standards in reading and writing;  neurodiversity (e.g., autism including self and emotion regulation, dyslexia);  the caregiver environment to develop language skills and a joy of reading; and  society and structural barriers to explain why there is a gender and socio-economic status gap in engagement in literacy-based activities and; the importance of digitalisation.
Playfulness and creativity
Our researchers have found that fostering creative expression through different activities can have many benefits, including improving school readiness, social competence and understanding different perspectives which can be very important in cultural adaptation and confidence-building for migrant communities especially in second-language learning. Together with encouraging reading and writing, parents can play an important role in supporting their children to develop and enjoy creativity. In turn engagement in creative expression increases community cohesion.
Attachment and wellbeing
Families, irrespective of social economic status, can struggle in developing mutual affect with their children, which provides a foundation for social interaction. This can lead to more limited awareness and responsiveness to their needs. There are a number of family therapy treatments that can support this. Currently, we are evaluating how those therapies work to improve the mood (depression, anxiety) and parenting attachment outcomes to indicate the essential elements required for Public Health professionals to be able to roll out the treatment successfully across different contexts to take into account the diverse personal and social experiences of families.
Bridge2 is a charity focused on serving the asylum seeker, refugee, and local community throughout the central Liverpool area. Since 2018 Bridge2 has been supporting people who are escaping persecution and war zones; assisting them as they transition into a purpose-filled life in the UK. They offer a variety of services such as: English classes and cultural classes, skills workshops and art workshops, support groups, and practical support like clothes, toiletries, and food.
The British Psychological Society
The Dialogue Society is a registered charity, established in London in 1999, with the aim of advancing social cohesion by connecting communities, empowering people to engage and contributing to the development of ideas on dialogue and community building. It does this by bringing people together through discussion forums, courses, capacity building publications and outreach. It operates nation-wide with regional branches across the UK (including Liverpool).
It was founded by British Muslims of Turkish background. The Dialogue Society is not a religious or ethnic organisation. It aims to facilitate dialogue on a whole range of social issues, regardless of any particular faith or religion. It stands for democracy, human rights, the non-instrumentalisation of religion in politics, equality and freedom of speech.
King’s Leadership Academy, Warrington
King’s Leadership Academy is a coeducational secondary school and sixth form whose mission is to ensure that all children succeed ad achieve their full potential; and help children develop into young leaders who will positively contribute to society.
Kirkdale, St Lawrence CofE Primary School
St Lawrence CofE Primary School is a church school with the feeling of family woven through everything they do; their school family, church family and community family. This is reflected in the Christian vision and values. In action this means that they strive to work in partnership with families, to be approachable and most of all be the hub of a diverse and unique community.
Newfield School, Thornton
Newfield School is a community day Special School, which provides places for children who have social, emotional, mental and health difficulties (SEMH). They promote an atmosphere of good order and consistency of approach which provides children with the opportunity to realise their potential, become aware of their own success and in so doing adjust to the demands of society happily and successfully
PSS (Person Shaped Support)
PSS a social enterprise that supports people to live happy, healthy and hopeful lives, whether they’re adults who have learning or physical disabilities, challenges with their mental health or difficulties as they’re getting older; people in and around the criminal justice system; or families who’ve been through unsteady times.
Shared book reading and well-being
Recently, the group has also developed a new partnership with a local shared reading charity called The Reader. By working together, we are exploring the role that shared reading has on children’s wellbeing.
The Salvation Army (Strawberry Field)
Strawberry Field has been in the care of the Salvation Army since the 1930s as a place that supports vulnerable young people and a site of spirituality and inspiration. This legacy continues with the Salvation Army’s redevelopment of Strawberry Field to give young people with learning disabilities in Liverpool the chance to succeed, and honour the site that inspired John Lennon.
St Julie Catholic Primary School, Eccleston
St Julie Catholic Primary School is a very happy and friendly school, where children grow and learn in a supportive and loving environment. Their warm and caring ethos is apparent as soon as you enter the school and is commented on by all who visit. They are very proud of the academic and creative achievements, of their sporting success and the exemplary behaviour demonstrated by their children – and their children are proud to be part of the
St Julie Family.
/strong>Writing on the Wall
Writing on the Wall believe in creativity, community, diversity, artistic excellence and social and economic justice. They are Liverpool’s longest-running writing and literary organisation and festival. They celebrate and inspire creativity and writing in all its forms through inquiry, debate, performance and publishing.
Their annual WoWFest brings together local audiences with the best local, national and international, writers, artists and social commentators.
Community involvement initiative
Please also see this link (https://liverpoolhopepsychologydept.github.io/ADP/index.html) for the work by members of the Research Group and students on MSc Applied Developmental Psychology involving Communities of Practice with interdisciplinary researchers, stakeholders, policy-makers, practitioners, young people and families. The Communities of Practice encompass three broad challenges facing communities in the Liverpool Region; language and literacy; relationships and belonging; equality and life chances. Students conduct summary reports on the main challenges, psychological intervention reports in placements where interventions are taking place in the community; and research projects in Applied Developmental Psychology that are informed by external organisations, stakeholders and participants groups through co-design.