Babies and toddlers in lockdown and beyond: the impacts of variation in the home environment during the pandemic on children’s executive function development

2nd November 2021 : 17:00 - 18:15

Category: Webinar

Speaker: Dr Alexandra Hendry, University of Oxford

Location: Zoom

Convener: Sandra Mathers

Audience: Public


Executive functions are the skills that enable us to resist acting on impulse, adjust our actions during a changing situation, regulate our emotions, and work towards goals. These skills are implicated in social, academic and behavioural outcomes across the lifespan.

Drawing on data from an online study of 575 UK-based 8- to 36-month-olds (218 followed longitudinally since Spring 2020), I will show how multiple facets of the home environment such as parent-child enriching activities and child screen use relate to children’s emerging executive functions. In particular, I will demonstrate how associations between socioeconomic status, engagement in enriching activities, and executive functions are moderated by availability of Early Childhood Education and Care, and access to space and resources. I will also present data demonstrating the rapid and deleterious effects that parental mental ill-health can have on children’s early executive functions, and highlight demographic groups who may be particularly vulnerable to these effects.

Additionally, I will present insights from a series of online workshops with parents and practitioners into the barriers that parents face to engaging in enriching activities and limiting excessive screen use, and reflect on what this means for how researchers, policy-makers and practitioners can best support children’s early social-cognitive development.

About the speaker 

Dr Alex Hendry is a NIHR Advanced Research fellow at the University of Oxford, and also holds the Scott Family Junior Research Fellowship in Autism at University College, Oxford. Alex’s research focuses on developing ways to identify and help children most likely to struggle with executive functions – the thinking and regulation skills that help us to plan, solve problems and control our impulses. Alex leads the START (Supporting Toddlers with a family history of autism/ADHD to develop strong Attention, Regulation and Thinking skills) early intervention programme. She also collaborates on the Oxford Early Executive Functions project – a longitudinal study of attention and executive function development from 10 months to preschool age – and the Social Distancing and Development Study – which aims to understand the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns on early language and cognitive development.