You can now find the University's latest news, events and blogs at

Lectures and little ones

Noele with her daughters Emilia (1) and Eryn (3)

Despite starting her degree with a 14 month-old baby and finishing with another 14 month-old baby, Noele McCarthy managed to combine studying with motherhood and graduates from the University of Portsmouth today with a first-class degree.

Noele had two young children at home when she embarked on a degree in Psychology. She then fell pregnant again and had another baby just before her second-year finals. The pregnancy was far from easy though; Noele was sick every day for nine months and ended up on crutches for the last five weeks due to pelvic girdle pain.

She said: “There were so many occasions I thought I should quit but one of the reasons for returning to study was to make a better life for my children so I guess that always stuck with me. My partner Ben was also amazingly supportive – listening to me scream, shout and cry, and insisting that I’m capable of anything if I just put my mind to it.

“My daughter was born during the Easter vacation so I actually only missed a couple of weeks worth of lectures in the end.”

Noele had initially intended to do the last year of her three-year course part-time but the increase in tuition fees meant it wasn’t financially viable.

She said: “It was a case of all or nothing. Having got so far I wasn’t prepared to give up so I had to make the very tough decision to study full time. I was really worried about how I’d cope but my youngest two children had places in the University’s Nursery, which was fantastic and incredibly supportive. The staff members are so lovely – I felt that if the children couldn’t be with me they really were the next best thing.”

Noele’s final-year project explored whether infants show awareness of other people’s actions in relation to food, before they start eating solid food themselves. It was so highly commended she has been invited to present at a conference in September organised by the British Psychological Society Developmental Section.

The research involved monitoring the reaction of babies while their mothers were eating a snack, reading a book or pretending to eat a piece of paper. The results showed that infants do have awareness of their parents’ eating habits, as they made chewing movements when their mothers were eating a snack but not when they were pretending to eat paper.

Noele said: “Being present while others eat may be a key part of an infant’s world in their first year of life but there hasn’t been any research into this area before. The topic was ideal for me as my own baby was about to begin weaning so I could use my experience as a mother to inform my research.”

Noele was inspired to study psychology because she wanted to help her younger brother who has Asperger’s Syndrome. She has now been accepted on to a Master’s in Applied Psychology of Intellectual Disability at Portsmouth.

UoP News © 2020 All Rights Reserved