2017 Winner of the Capstone Editing Carer’s Travel Grant for Academic Women

We are very proud to announce that Dr Sally Staton is the 2017 recipient of the Capstone Editing Carer’s Travel Grant for Academic Women. This award will support Sally’s two young daughters and a carer to travel with her to the 18th European Conference on Developmental Psychology in August in Utrecht, Netherlands and to meet with international collaborators from the University of Oslo, Norway.

Dr Staton is an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, Institute for Social Science Research. Dr Staton’s research focuses on the impact of early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings on children’s long-term health, learning and behavioural outcomes. Sally completed her PhD in 2015 at the Centre for Children’s Health Research in Brisbane. Her thesis examined the effects of mandatory rest-time practices in ECEC on children’s developing sleep patterns.

Currently, in Australia, over a million children attend ECEC services, with almost all children attending some form of early childhood service, such as childcare or preschool, in the years prior to school. Dr Staton’s research examines how ECEC services promote sleep health in young children and the impact of sleep practices on children’s short- and longer-term development. Her work is the first internationally to observe current sleep practices in a large number of ECEC services and their impacts on children’s sleep patterns, family functioning and development.

During her short research career, which includes maternity leave and primary care duties, Sally has developed an outstanding research track record, with over 40 scientific publications, nationally competitive research grants and scientific awards.

Alongside her academic research pursuits, Dr Staton has a strong commitment to research dissemination and translation. In 2015, she was contracted by the Department of Education and Training, Queensland, to conduct further research into the role of ECEC in promoting sleep health and to translate her research into professional development resources and information for educators and parents.  In 2016, in recognition of her work, Sally was named as one of Queensland’s Young Tall Poppy research scientists.

By providing financial assistance for Sally to allow her two small children, including a breastfeeding infant, to travel with her to the 18th European Conference of Developmental Psychology in Utrecht, Capstone Editing is supporting the continuation of her outstanding research career and ensuring that her research will be available to parents and children everywhere.

An overview of the research she will be presenting is provided below.

Title: Supporting sleep development in early childhood: What role does childcare play?

The early years of life represent a critical window in the development of sleep patterns and the promotion of healthy sleep behaviours. During this period, childcare plays a significant role in the lives of children and has demonstrated causal impacts on lifetime trajectories of health and development. Sleep provisions are a common characteristic of childcare programming internationally, yet few studies have examined childcare sleep practices and their impacts. As in other areas of child development, sleep follows a normative developmental trajectory, with considerable individual variation in timing and need. How childcare services manage this diversity is not well defined, but has become an area of significant debate.

We present findings from two large observational studies. Collectively, these studies provide the first comprehensive data on sleep practices for children from birth to five years across a diversity of childcare settings (N = 170 childcare rooms; >2500 children observed). In both, an intensive in situ observation protocol, the Sleep Observation Measure for Early Childhood Education and Care (SOME), was used to assess care practices and child behaviours.

Results document a high prevalence of standardised sleep times across childcare services, regardless of variations in individual sleep need. Standardisation was particularly prevalent among toddler (100%) and preschool (79%) age groups. While a majority of preschool programs implemented mandatory sleep times (from 15–180 minutes), almost two-thirds of children (69%) did not sleep. Care practices in infant rooms were commonly reported by educators as being flexible and responsive to infant sleep cues; in practice, however, educators were observed implementing a standard sleep time, irrespective of individual sleep need.

Our results are discussed in relation to current evidence regarding the early development of sleep patterns and how childcare practices may act to support or modify sleep patterns, with ensuing effects on child development and family functioning.

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