A University of East London psychologist who appeared on Channel 4 is appealing for child helpers as he attempts to discover a link between stress levels and noisy environments.
Dr Sam Wass, who appeared in last year’s BAFTA-nominated documentary The Secret Life Of 4, 5 And 6-Year-Olds , was awarded a grant to look into a theory he formed during his involvement with the show.
Sam is appealing for help from parents of young or unborn children to see whether those who grow up in noisier environments are more erratic and stressed.
Sam said: “There’s so much we don’t understand about early development, but one thing we do know is how sensitive babies and children are to things around them.
“So many children nowadays are growing up in urban environments and, one of the things about urban environments, is that they tend to be very cramped, with lots of noise.
“We know that noise is stressful, but we don’t know much about how different levels of long-term exposure to noise can affect children’s development.
“Research suggests overall, children who grow up in a chaotic living environment find it harder to concentrate when they start school.
“But we don’t understand why this is and what exact aspects of the living environment are causing these problems.”
He described east London as the “perfect” place to compare differing environments, pointing to the mix of wealthy and less well-off families.
The 37-year-old lecturer started forming the theory while he was on the programme, which set up hidden cameras in nurseries to analyse children’s behaviour.
Sam said: “What we could see was some of the children are a lot more calm and then some were really up and down.
“We had an indoor space and an outdoor space. The indoor space was quite loud. We had 12 children and they would make an awful lot of noise.
“You could see the speed they were moving around getting faster the longer they were in there. Some of them found it very stressful to be in a noisy room.”
Children participating in Sam’s study would wear sensors (microphones and cameras) to record their home environment over week-long periods and they will have their internal stress levels (heart rate, movement patterns) monitored at the same time.
The same children will also go into the lab at UEL to conduct further tests and have their brain activity measured.
“We can then compare the data and see how the environment affects their behaviour,” Sam said.
“What we are predicting is that we are going to find a strong relationship between noise and stress levels.”
Sam is appealing for anyone who is pregnant or has a child aged two or below to take part in the study.
Names with due dates or dates of birth of children can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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