Wirral Child Health and Development Study: First Steps

What have we discovered so far?

A list of the scientific papers from the First Steps Study focusing on early infancy, which have been published so far are listed below. Please click on the links to download them. All papers are open access.

Wright, N., Courchesne, V., Pickles, A., Bedford, R., Duku, E., Hill, J., Georgiades, S., Kerns, C., Bennett, T., Mirenda, P., Smith, I., Scorah, J., Sharp, H., Szatmari, P., Ungar, W., Vaillancourt, T., Zaidman-Zait, A., Zwaigenbaum, L, & Elsabbagh, M.., Pathways Team. (2023). A longitudinal comparison of emotional, behavioral and attention problems in autistic and typically developing children. Psychological Medicine, First View, pp. 1 – 13 Read.

Hill, J., Wright, N., Sharp, H., Pickles, A., & Steele, H. (2023). On the risks of secure attachment in infancy: Childhood irritability and adolescent depression predicted by secure attachment and high approach behaviours at 14-months towards a caregiver living with inter-parental violence. Frontiers in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Read.

Wright., Sharp, H., Gay, J., Pickles, A., & Hill, J. (2023). Turning to friends in preference to parents for support in early adolescence: does this contribute to the gender difference in depressive symptoms? Frontiers in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Read.

von Stumm, S., Cave, S.N. & Wakeling, P. (2022). Persistent association between family socioeconomic status and primary school performance in Britain over 95 years. npj Science of Learning. 7, 4 Read

Braithwaite, L., Sharp, H., Pickles, A., & Wright, N. (2022). Breast may not always be best: Moderation of effects of postnatal depression by breastfeeding and infant sex. Biology of Sex Differences. Read

Wright, N., Pickles, A., Sharp, H., & Hill, J. (2021). A psychometric and validity study of callous-unemotional traits in 2.5 year old children. Scientific reports, 11(1), 1-10. Read

Slade, P., Sheen, K., Weeks, A., De Pascalis, L., Lunt, K., Bedwell, C., Thompson, B., Hill, J. and Sharp, H., (2021). Do stress and anxiety in early pregnancy affect the progress of labour: evidence from the Wirral Child Health and Development Study (WCHADS). Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica. Read

N. Wright, J. Hill, H. Sharp, A. Pickles (2021). Interplay between long-term vulnerability and new risk: Young adolescent and maternal mental health immediately before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. JCPP advances. 1(1), pp.e12008-e12008. Read

N. Wright, J. Hill, H. Sharp, A. Pickles (2021). Commentary response: Addressing the scientific as well as the social‐inequalities questions ‐ Response to the commentary of Newlove‐Delgado (2021). JCPP Advances. 1(1). Read

Obando, D., Hill, J., Sharp, H., Pickles, A., Fisher, L., & Wright, N. (2020). Synergy between callous-unemotional traits and aggression in preschool children: cross-informant and cross-cultural replication in the UK Wirral Child Health and Development Study, and the Colombian La Sabana Parent-Child Study. Development & Psychopathology. Read

Bedford, R., Carter Leno, V., Wright, N., Bluett-Duncan, M., Smith, T. J., Anzures, G., Pickles, A., Sharp, H., & Hill, J. (2020). Emotion Recognition Performance in Children with Callous Unemotional Traits is Modulated by Co-occurring Autistic Traits. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Read

Braithwaite, L., Pickles, A., Wright, N., Sharp, H., & Hill, J. (2020) Sex-differences in foetal origins of child emotional symptoms: a test of evolutionary hypotheses in a large, general population cohort. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Early View. Read

Hill, J., Pickles, A., Wright, N., Braithwaite, E, & Sharp, H. (2019). Predictions of children’s emotionality from evolutionary and epigenetic hypotheses. Scientific Reports, 9, 2519Read.

 Hill, J., Pickles, A., Wright, N., Quinn, P., Murgatroyd, C., & Sharp, H. (2019) Mismatched Prenatal and Postnatal Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Child Behaviours: A Sex-Dependent Role for NR3C1 DNA Methylation in the Wirral Child Health and Development Study. Cells, 8(9), 943. Read

Rutherford, C., Sharp, H., Hill, J., Pickles, A., & Taylor-Robinson, D. (2019). How does perinatal maternal mental health explain early social inequalities in child behavioural and emotional problems? Findings from the Wirral Child Health and Development Study. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0217342. Read

Wright, N. J., Pickles, A. Braithwaite, L., Sharp, H., & Hill, J. (2019). Sex-dependant associations between maternal prenatal cortisol and child callous-unemotional traits: Findings from the Wirral Child Health and Development Study. Psychoendoneurocrinology, 109, 104409. Read

Wright, N., Hill, J., Pickles, A., & Sharp, H. (2019). Callous unemotional traits, low cortisol reactivity and physical aggression in children: findings from the Wirral Child Health and Development Study. Translational Psychiatry, 9(1), 79. Read

 de Sousa, P., Sellwood, W., Fien, K., Sharp, H., Pickles, A., Hill, J., Abbott, K., Fisher, L. & Bentall, R. (2018). Mapping early environment using communication deviance: A longitudinal study of maternal sensitivity toward 6-month-old children. Development and Psychopathology. Read

Manca, M., Pessoa, V., Myers, P., Pickles, A., Hill, J., Sharp, H., Quinn, J. P. (2018). Distinct chromatin structures at the monoamine oxidase-A promoter correlate with allele-specific expression in SH-SY5Y cells.. Genes, brain, and behavior, e12483. doi:10.1111/gbb.12483. Read

Braithwaite, E. C., Hill, J., Pickles, A., Glover, V., O’Donnell, K., & Sharp, H. (2018). Associations between maternal prenatal cortisol and fetal growth are specific to infant sex: Findings from the Wirral Child Health and Development Study. Journal of developmental origins of health and disease, 9(4), 425-431. doi: 10.1017/S2040174418000181. Read

Manca, M., Pessoa, V., Illera Lopez, A., Harrison, PT., Miyajima, F., Sharp, H., Pickles, A., Hill, J., Murgatroyd, C., Bubb, VJ., Quinn, J. (2018) The regulation of Monoamine Oxidase A gene expression by distinct Variable Number Tandem Repeats. Journal of Molecular Neuroscience 64:459–470. DOI: 10.1007/s12031-018-1044-z. Read / Read News Article

Huntley, F., Wright, N., Pickles, A., Sharp, H., & Hill, J. (2017) Maternal mental health and child problem behaviours: disentangling the role of depression and borderline personality dysfunction. British Journal of Psychiatry Open, 3(6), 300-305. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.117.005843. Read

Wright, N., Hill, J., Sharp, H., & Pickles, A. (2018) Maternal sensitivity to distress, attachment and the development of callous-unemotional traits in young children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 59(7):790-800. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12867 Read

Vidal-Ribas P, Pickles A, Tibu F, Sharp H and Hill J (2017) Sex differences in the associations between vagal reactivity and oppositional defiant disorder symptoms. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 58(9):988-997. Doi:10.1111/jcpp.12750. Read

Braithwaite, E.C., Pickles, A., Sharp, H., Glover, V., O'Donnell, J., Tibu, F., & Hill, J. (2017) Maternal prenatal cortisol predicts infant negative emotionality in a sex-dependent manner. Physiology and Behaviour 175:31-36. DOI:10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.03.017. Read

Pickles, A., Sharp, H., Hellier, J., & Hill, J. (2017) Prenatal anxiety, maternal stroking in infancy, and symptoms of emotional and behavioral disorders at 3.5 years. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 26:325-334. DOI: 10.1007/s00787-016-0886-6. Read.

Wright, N., Hill, J., Pickles, A., & Sharp, H. (2015) The Specific Role of Relationship Life Events in the Onset of Depression during Pregnancy and the Postpartum. PLoS One 10(12):e0144131. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0144131. Read

Koukounari, A., Pickles, A., Hill, J., & Sharp, H. (2015) Psychometric Properties of the Parent-Infant Caregiving Touch Scale. Frontiers in Psychology 6:1887. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01887. Read

Murgatroyd, C., Quinn, J. P., Sharp, H. M., Pickles, A., & Hill, J. (2015). Effects of prenatal and postnatal depression, and maternal stroking, at the glucocorticoid receptor gene. Translational psychiatry, 5(5), e560. Read.

Sharp, H., Hill, J., Hellier, J., & Pickles, A. (2015) Maternal antenatal anxiety, postnatal stroking and emotional problems in children: outcomes predicted from pre- and postnatal programming hypotheses. Psychological Medicine 45(2):269-283, DOI: 10.1017/S0033291714001342.  Read.

Tibu, F., Sharp, H., Marshall, K., Glover, V., & Pickles, A. (2014) Evidence for sex differences in fetal programming of physiological stress reactivity in infancy. Development and Psychopathology 26(4):879-888. DOI: 10.1017/S0954579414000194. Read.

Bedford, R., Pickles, A., Sharp, H., Wright, N., & Hill, J. (2014) Reduced face preference in infancy: a developmental precursor to callous-unemotional traits? Biological Psychiatry 78(2):144–150. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.09.022. Read.

Hill, J., Breen, G., Quinn, J., Tibu, F., Sharp, H., & Pickles, A. (2013) Evidence for interplay between genes and maternal stress in utero: Monoamine Oxidase A polymorphism moderates effects of life events during pregnancy on infant negative emotionality at 5 weeks. Genes, Brain and Behaviour 12(4):388-396. DOI:10.1111/gbb.12033. Read.

Pickles, A., Hill, J., Breen, G., Quinn, J., Marshall, K., Jones, H., & Sharp, H. (2013) Evidence for interplay between genes and parenting on infant emotion regulation in the first year of life: Monoamine Oxidase A polymorphism moderates effects of maternal sensitivity on infant anger proneness. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 54(12):1308-1317. DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.12081. Read.

Glover, V., & Hill, J. (2012). Sex differences in the programming effects of prenatal stress on psychopathology and stress responses: an evolutionary perspective. Physiology & behavior, 106(5), 736-740. Read.

Sharp, H., Pickles, A., Meaney, M., Marshall, K., Tibu, F., & Hill, J. (2012) Frequency of Infant Stroking Reported by Mothers Moderates the Effect of Prenatal Depression on Infant Behavioural and Physiological Outcomes. PLoS ONE 7(10):e45446. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0045446. Read.

List of pre-published papers at various stages of the review process


Wright, N., Hill., J., Sharp, H., Crook, D., Refberg-Brown, M., Kehl, S., Pickles, A. (2023). COVID-19 impact on adolescent mental health: A reassessment accounting for development. Read.