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Child drawing

Family, Learning and Interaction

About us

The FLINT (Family, Learning and Interaction) research theme at Early Start brings together researchers with expertise in infancy, attachment, parent-child conversation, parental mental health, the home learning environment, early literacy, and the role of fathers, to address important questions about interactive processes in development. We ask how infants make sense of the busy world around them, and how parents and carers support their child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.

The quality of parent-child interaction has long been recognised as critical in children’s development during the early years. Through observational research in Wollongong Infant Learning Lab (WILL) at Early Start, we ask questions about parent-child interactions in the home environment that contribute to the emergence of early learning, literacy and numeracy and socio-emotional well-being. Through our alignment with the establishment of Northfields Clinic at Early Start, we ask questions about the ways in which families experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage interact. We believe that intervening in early interactive processes provides a unique opportunity for prevention.


Mother and daughter walking through field


It all counts: Talking about numeracy at home

By the time children begin formal schooling, there are already considerable individual differences in early literacy and numeracy skills. A child who is behind when school begins struggles to catch up. We are studying the ways in which parents and carers talk about numeracy in the home with very young children. The aim of this research is to better understand the range of ways parents/carers and children can or might talk about concepts like counting, size and shape comparisons, distance, time, and patterns, during play, book-reading, and everyday activities in the home. This research will inform the development of an intervention for families who need support and guidance as their children develop numeracy knowledge and confidence. 

Parent-child Interactions

Parent-child interactions provide the primary social learning context for children. Our research brings together clinical and developmental staff and research methods to better understand the ways in which parental mental health and wellbeing is associated with the way parents play and talk with their children. Our research aims to understand and adapt existing evidence-based interventions, such as Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, to better meet the needs of high-risk families, and to foster parent-child attachment bonds.