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Toddlers Up: Foundations

Ten years ago, Professor Claire Hughes started the Toddlers Up study with the goal of painting a clearer picture of how children develop across the first few years of life. With the tremendous help of Dr. Rosie Ensor, the study has grown into a decade long look into the lives of over 100 families. Today, the Toddlers Up team consists of graduate and undergraduate students who are excited to continue this remarkable research. 


Latest project

As the 'toddlers' are turning into teenagers, we're catching up with them about their lives at secondary school and how they feel about the friends they've made. 



The Toddlers Up Team

Claire Hughes, Professor 


Across my career, my interest has gradually shifted from a strong focus on children with autism to my current work on understanding the nature of children’s developing executive functions and social understanding. The underlying theme of the various collaborative projects that I am currently involved in is working on how to assess children in these areas, what factors may help facilitate their development, and finally, what this information means for policy making. My main research programme is a longitudinal study of a socially diverse group of children, recruited at the age of 2. Finally, outside of my research, I am a Fellow and Director of Studies at Newnham College as well as the course organizer for both the second and third year undergraduate psychology papers. I am also an editor for the British Journal of Developmental Psychology and an associate editor for several other journals.

Rosie Ensor, Postdoctoral Fellow


After receiving my undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge, I joined the Centre for Family Research as a PhD student and began my research on the early origins of children’s problem and prosocial behaviour. Subsequently, I received funding to continue my work as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow and am currently interested in how children’s relationships with their parents and siblings help and hinder children’s attempts to form and maintain friendships with peers in the early school years. In addition, in collaboration with City Council, I evaluate if and how community interventions help young people who struggle to integrate socially in the last years of primary school and the first years of secondary school. Other research interests include children’s conversations with how mothers and peers may promote and reflect their understanding of thoughts and feelings. 

Sarah Foley, Research Assistant


I completed my undergraduate degree in Social and Political Sciences at the 

University of Cambridge, specializing in Psychology and more specifically, focusing on children's social understanding and favouritism. I joined the Centre for Family Research in July 2012 as a research assistant working with pre-teens and their families in the Toddlers Up study. I enjoy working 

with families and being involved in my community, having been a volunteer at an attachment service and now offering help to those in need at a local mental health charity. Essentially, in both my work and private life my enthusiasm to study the dynamics of the parent-child relationship grows as I embark on the next phase of my academic career. 

Amanda Aldercotte, Phd Candidate


Throughout my university career, I have always been curious about how children turn into the happy and healthy people we see. Both my undergraduate degree from Concordia University and my master's thesis from the University of Cambridge focused on what family and child forces help promote prosocial behaviour in young children. Essentially, to date my research has begged the question 'What makes us want to help or comfort others?'

As an extension of this interest, my PhD work focuses on how the different types of social and prosocial skills acquired over the first few years of life might help children make friends and do well in secondary school.

Naomi White, PhD Candidate


I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Otago, New Zealand where I was involved in a play-based intervention study for children with ADHD, and a project examining how teenagers' memory for past events affects their well being and self esteem. In October 2010, I joined the Centre for Family Research as a PhD student, and together with Rory Devine coordinated the age 10 Toddlers Up school visits. My current research looks at how children's relationships with their brothers and sisters change over childhood, and how these changes affect children's later well being and friendships. I'm also interested in how culture influences children's family relationships.

Rory Devine, Post-Doctoral Research Associate


I completed my PhD in Developmental Psychology at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Professor Claire Hughes. My doctoral research was funded by a Graduate Research Scholarship from St John's College, Cambridge.  Broadly speaking, my research focuses on the predictors, correlates and consequences of normative individual differences in mental-state reasoning (or 'theory of mind') in the pre-school years and in middle childhood.  I am currently employed as a post-doctoral research associate funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). I contribute to teaching on the M.Phil. in Social and Developmental Psychology, M.Phil. in Psychology and Education and supervise undergraduate research projects and dissertations in psychology. 

Acknowledgements to our Previous Members...


The past ten years have required a number of helping hands to run the various sessions, visit schools, decipher video tapes, and untangle what the different tasks, questionnaires, and observations are trying to tell us. As much thanks as possible goes to all of those involved at the previous rounds of the Toddlers Up study.


With particular thanks to: Julie Jessop, Rachel Marfleet, Laila Friese, Jesse Lyons, Anji Wilson, Lorna Jacobs, Alex Marks, and Karen Sage.

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