We are a team of developmental researchers from the School of Psychology at the University of Wollongong who conduct research on infant cognition, parent-child interactions, and well-being in pregnancy and early parenting. We are a part of the Family, Learning and Interaction (FLINT) Research Theme based at Early Start.
At WILL, we are committed to fostering diversity and inclusivity in our pursuit of scientific discovery. Our values will be reflected within the composition of our members, in the families and communities we work with, and in the range of research we undertake. We encourage an environment of collaboration, open communication, trust, and respect, that will drive forward knowledge and understanding of family interactions and early child development.
Associate Professor Jane Herbert
Jane is the director of the Wollongong Infant Learning Lab, and the leader of the FLINT Research Theme at Early Start. She completed her PhD at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University and Delaware University, USA. She spent 12 years conducting infant research at Sheffield University, UK, before moving with her family to UOW. She has extensive experience conducting research with infants and parents and is particularly interested in the way in which cognition, communication, and physical development interact during the first year of life. Follow her on twitter @JaneSHerbert1
Annaleise Mitchell, PhD Student
Annaleise's research interests are focused on understanding the significance pregnant individuals and birth partners place on the childbirth experience. She was the WILL lab manager for 3 years before starting her PhD. Now she is examining how attitudes, expectations, and knowledge of childbirth is gained, and how the childbirth experience impacts on wellbeing during early parenting. Follow her on twitter @AnnaleiseSM
Amy Hofmeier, PhD Student
Amy’s research is examining the changing roles and responsibilities of Dads in Australia, attitudes towards fathering, and the transmission of fathering across generations. She is currently observing fathers and children aged 1 to 2 years interact in our lab to better understand the impact of fathers on early childhood social emotional development.
Meagan Baltoski, Clinical PhD Student
Meagan's research interests are maternal anxiety, parent-child interactions, and the development of early numeracy skill. Her studies build on from her Honours research that were completed with us a few years ago. Meagan has recently completed the development and pilot testing of a community-informed intervention to help parents support numeracy development in their preschoolers.
Cheryl Ho, PhD Student
Cheryl's research examines how parents' book-reading practices change as babies become increasingly mobile and verbal, and the impact on infant language abilities and cognition. Her studies build on from her Honours research that were completed with us a few years ago. She has observed book reading interactions in at WILL and collected survey data with families in Wollongong and Singapore. She also has a focus on the unique contribution of Dads in parent-child book reading interactions.
Suzy Schilder, PhD Student
Suzy's research is examining ways to assess and support the psychosocial wellbeing of expectant and new fathers. Her first PhD study is examining the barriers and motivators for father-inclusive perinatal mental health care offered in NSW.
Grant Ryan, PhD Student
Grant has recently started his PhD within the FLINT team. His research focus is on the use of Narrative exposure therapy (NET) within NSW Health Child Protection Counselling Service as a way of supporting birthparents and young people through violence, abuse, and neglect.
Sophie Russell, Clinical PhD Student
Sophie's recently submitted her PhD, which was centered around parent-child interactions with a particular focus on middle childhood (8 to 12 year olds). Working towards understanding the social and emotional development during this critical phase, Sophie's research involved parent-child pairs from the Wollongong community, as well as children referred to Northfields Psychology Clinic @ Early Start. The aim of this research was to create a more focused therapeutic intervention for children with anxiety and depression through understanding what is helpful within parent-child conversations.
Alixandra Risi, Clinical PhD Student
Alix recently submitted her PhD research within the FLINT team, after completing her Honours project with us in 2018. Her research interests include parent-child interactions and attachment. Alix’s research focused on the impact of parental military deployment on young children and the parent-child relationship. Her research also examined whether Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an effective intervention for military families with young children experiencing attachment, behavioural, and emotional difficulties post-deployment.
Mark Donovan, PhD student
Mark is a clinical psychologist who co-developed a parenting program called Confident Carers Cooperative Kids for parents of children with behavioural difficulties. CCCK's been used to support hundreds of families in the Illawarra for over a decade. Mark recently submitted his PhD within the FLINT team where he has written up CCCK for an academic audience and examined the features of CCCK that work best for different types of families.
Will is our Wollongong Infant Learning Lab (WILL) mascot. His favourite activities are moving, chatting, and playing with friends and family. He's looking forward to meeting you soon.
Recent lab members
Dr Josie McNamara
Josie's research focused on maternal wellbeing and attachment during pregnancy and the early postpartum period. Josie completed a three-phase longitudinal study with a sample of pregnant women from the Illawarra to investigate the changes in mental health over the maternity continuum, in order to better understand the relationship between maternal wellbeing and the emerging relationship between mother and baby. Josie now works as a clinical psychologist in Wollongong.