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Pass the iPad: Collaborative Creating and Sharing in Family Groups‬‬



In this post, Charlotte Humma shares insight on how technology can be used creatively and innovatively to support social-cognitive development in children and family groups.

When my 5 year old told me that she had been playing games on an iPad at after school club, I was both surprised and intrigued. My schooling was computer-free, and whilst Pac Man exists somewhere on the Narnia side of the wardrobe of my memory, up to now the extent of my computer gaming doesn’t go beyond playing Tetris on my phone. 

Given my limited experience of computer games, I wanted to know what ‘games’ my child had been playing and whether she liked it, but I was also slightly apprehensive about what effect these games may have on a child. 

Dr Nicola Yuill conducts research into how technology can be used creatively and innovatively to support social-cognitive development.  In collaboration with others, Nicola’s EPSRC-funded ShareIT project investigates whether tablets support creative co-located group work in families and how such creative work differs from the same task on paper.

For one such project, Nicola and colleagues designed and evaluated an app requiring individual and group co-creation in families. 262 family groups visiting a science fair played a collaborative drawing game on paper and iPads.

You can watch the video about this project:

The group creations were rated significantly more original and cohesive on iPads than paper. Detailed video analysis of seven family groups also showed how tablets support embodiment and use of digital traces, and how the different media sustain individual and shared actions at different stages in the creative process.

This is excellent news. Nicola’s research shows that working in groups with an iPad may enhance our children’s creativity, and that tablets have the potential to support multi-user work. The lab is now looking at ways to use iPads to support communication in families with a child with autism, for which financial support is required.

Whilst IT continues to develop and our children with it, Dr Nicola Yuill and colleagues’ work is gaining recognition. Their full paper on ‘The collaborative use of iPads’ has been accepted for the prestigious CHI 2013 conference.

The data for this research project was collected at the Brighton Science Festival and in the ChaTLab, which is headed by Dr Nicola Yuill. Nicola will be performing at the festival again this year, as part of the Myths Morphs and Memes collective: .

See also: 


Yuill, N., Rogers, Y., & Rick, J. (2013). Pass the iPad: Collaborative creating and sharing in family groups. To appear in Proceedings of CHI 2013. ACM Press

Consumer Culture, Children & Well-Being: Research, Implications, and Practice



Megan Hurst reports back on the 'Consumer Culture and Children’s Well-being' event.

On Friday 3rd May, 2013, the University of Sussex hosted a research dissemination event relating to the research of the Leverhulme funded project on ‘Consumer Culture and Children’s Well-being’, led by Dr Helga Dittmar and Professor Robin Banerjee. The event allowed the research team to share their exciting findings with interested professionals, and also identified ways of bridging the gap between academic research and applied areas of practice and policy.

The Children’s Consumer Culture Project has been gathering data for the past three years on the links between children’s engagement with and endorsement of consumer culture and their well-being, with measures incorporating physical health, subjective well-being, depression and body esteem. The conference aimed to share the research beyond the traditional academic community, and although we had numerous high profile academics, such as Tim Kasser, Agnes Nairn, and Greg Maio in attendance, we also had representatives from local schools, educational psychology services, clinical psychologists, and other service providers and policymakers .

The event was opened by an inspiring and vibrant speech from Caroline Lucas MP (Brighton Pavilion), who set the research project in a broader socio-political context.  She focused on three key points of policy, relating to:  a) advertising aimed at primary school-aged children; b) objectification of women in the media and the need for improved whole-school strategies concerning gender and relationships; and c) environmental impacts of consumption. Her thoughtful address provided the perfect introduction to the event, resonating with many of the issues that emerged as key parts of our discussion over the course of the day.

Dr Dittmar warmed up the floor for the project team, giving our attendees a taste of consumer culture with some particularly striking adverts (for Littlewoods & Dove (below)), before explaining the research background to the project. Although the negative link between materialism and well-being has been frequently documented amongst adults, very few studies have considered this link in children, and even fewer have followed the same participants over a period of time to better understand the direction of this relationship.

Dr Mark Wright and Dr Matt Easterbrook then walked us through some of the initial work for the project, detailing the extensive qualitative interviews with 60 children and our early scale development work. In this interview work, children overwhelmingly reported ‘social motives’ for wanting the coolest new gadgets or perfect looks. Popularity, fitting in, and improved social status were clearly significant drivers for children’s engagement with consumer culture.  Details of the scales we developed as part of the project and initial relationships between them were also presented.  The preliminary evidence showed that the kinds of social motives detailed above – and not more intrinsic motives concerning helping others and improving health – were significantly associated with depression and life dissatisfaction among children.

Professor Banerjee and Megan Hurst went on to share with the conference delegates some early work on the longitudinal study, the centrepiece of the project, which involved over 1000 children, over three school years. It was particularly nice to have teachers in the audience from many of the schools that had assisted in the data collection. Professor Banerjee wove a heartbreaking story from the sociometric data, with children rejected by their peers at the beginning of the study more strongly endorsing social motives for consumer culture and appearance over time. These children appeared to believe that having more ‘stuff’ and achieving the right looks would secure them social status, but in fact our longitudinal research showed that this belief/value system predicted their peer status decreasing over time; the children became more rather than less rejected by their peers.  In the second part of this presentation, Megan Hurst described the bi-directional links between two elements of well-being (depression and body esteem) and children’s orientation towards consumer culture, again detailing a vicious cycle: children experiencing low well-being at the beginning of the research increasingly endorsed consumer culture values, which in turn resulted in a further decrease in their well-being.

After lunch, the conference split into three ‘breakout sessions’ for discussion: Materialism, Consumption Pathologies and Sustainable Consumption; Appearance, Eating and Body Ideals; and Education, Schools and Families. Each group was tasked with suggesting possible interventions or policies that might emerge from the research, and fed back to the project team before the final session of the afternoon. These groups were filled with exciting discussions regarding a wide range of policy implications, from ways of supporting children at risk of eating disorders, to strategies for working with families and school, and the possibility of restricting advertising targeted at children.  The different perspectives coming from the varied fields represented among the delegates appeared to come together to form a common consensus, summed up excellently by Prof Agnes Nairn (EM-Lyon Business School) in the final plenary session.

The findings of the project tell us that children can sometimes experience ill-being, and so turn to consumer culture to remedy this. Yet, we are getting clear indications that this is a poor coping strategy and in fact leads to further decreases in well-being.  In our plenary discussion, we considered two possibilities for intervention, which are not mutually exclusive.  First, we may be able to increase children’s resilience, so that they develop more adaptive coping strategies.  Second, we can also take major strides forward – informed by policy decisions in other countries – in shielding children from consumer culture, by blocking advertising to children, and engaging in awareness raising interventions where consumer culture is discussed with children in schools.

Dr Dittmar inspirationally closed the day by emphasising the fact that although we appear to be up against a strong adversary in the form of consumer culture, opening up the dialogue and working together at events such as these is an important step towards mobilising efforts to improve children’s well-being.

The project has recently been extended by the Leverhulme Trust for an additional three months, until August 2013, and will be focusing on further in-depth analysis of the longitudinal data and on additional dissemination events and activities.

Further details can be found at the project website. Videos and presentations from the event will be uploaded shortly.

When integration can be a two-edged sword for children



A longitudinal study into acculturation reveals that minority group children who have an ‘integrationist’ approach to acculturation show the greatest increases in peer acceptance and self-esteem, yet may still experience some mild negative emotional outcomes as well.

Professor Rupert Brown, an expert in intergroup relations, provides an overview of his research and recent paper on the subject of acculturation.

According to UN figures, over 200 million people now live in a country other than the country that they were born in. Here in the UK, around 8% of the population (4.6 million people) consider themselves to belong to an ethnic minority group, according to Office for National Statistics data. A key question for social psychologists is to understand how people manage to live, if not in harmony, at least without conflict, in countries like the UK that consist of many different ethnic groups. It is obvious that some mutual accommodation between groups is required, and this is referred to in social psychology as ‘acculturation’.

A dominant acculturation perspective is that of Canadian psychologist John Berry. He suggests that there are two important acculturation challenges facing members of both minority groups: how far do they wish to (or are permitted to) retain aspects of their heritage culture? This is known technically as the desire for Culture Maintenance (CM). The other challenge is how much contact and engagement do they wish to (or are allowed to) have with the dominant majority culture? This is called desire for intergroup Contact (DC). It is possible for people to score high or low on each of these dimensions independently and, consequently, individuals can fall into one of four categories:


High CM

Low CM

High DC



Low DC



Berry suggested that individuals in the ‘integration’ group – ‘integrationists’ – who are high on both CM and DC will generally have the highest levels of well-being, although this may also depend on the attitude of the majority culture. Forty years of research have produced findings largely consistent with this, but there are several contrary findings in the literature as well. Another gap has been that most acculturation research has been cross-sectional in nature, usually a single snap-shot of associations between acculturation preferences and well-being. Such research makes it difficult to draw conclusions about what is causing what. To understand that better, one needs to do longitudinal research in one tracks the outcomes of people with particular acculturation preferences over time.

In this study, we addressed some of these deficiencies. We interviewed 215 South Asian children in Britain (aged between 5 and 11 years) at three time points over a year. Using specially designed child-friendly measures, we ascertained their acculturation preferences and also took various well-being measures like peer acceptance and social self-esteem. In addition, we asked teachers to rate each child for how much they displayed negative emotional symptoms (e.g., “many fears”, “easily scared”).

The key results were these:

  1. A clear majority (77%) of all children had an ‘integration’ attitude, but this was especially true for older children (8 – 11 years; 86%). A ‘separation’ attitude was endorsed by only a minority of children (11%), and was a bit more likely among younger children (5 – 7 years). The ‘integrationist’ attitude became stronger over time.
  2. Children who started out with an ‘integrationist’ attitude showed the greatest increases in peer acceptance and self-esteem over time. By the end of the study, they were clearly outscoring all other children on these two measures, showing the clear benefits of an ‘integrationist’ outlook. This was evidence in support of Berry’s supposition.
  3. However, an ‘integrationist’ approach did not wholly protect children against negative outcomes. We found that those children with an integration strategy at the first time point had more emotional symptoms at a later time point. This might have been because children adopting an integration strategy would have been more likely to seek out majority peers to play with, and hence potentially exposed themselves to more situations in which name calling and social rejection could occur.

In conclusion, the majority of the ethnic minority children in our study favoured an ‘integrationist’ orientation, suggesting that they felt comfortable engaging with the majority culture whilst simultaneously maintaining their own cultural heritage. The psychosocial effects of doing so are both positive and negative. Thus, the challenge for parents, teachers and community leaders alike will be to find ways of promoting the former outcomes and overcoming the latter.

This work has just been published online in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin:

Brown, R., Baysu, G., Cameron, L.,  Nigbur, D., Rutland, A., Watters, C., Hossain,R.,      LeTouze, D. & Landau, A. (2013) Acculturation Attitudes and Social Adjustment in British South Asian Children: A Longitudinal Study. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. doi:10.1177/0146167213500149 (

For a broader discussion of acculturation research, see:

Brown, R. & Zagefka, H. (2011) The dynamics of acculturation: an intergroup perspective. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 129-184.