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Diane W. Bales

College of Family and Consumer Sciences

Extension and Outreach, Human Development and Family Science

Professor, Extension Human Development Specialist, and Child Life Program Director

Dr. Bales is responsible for teaching, community outreach, and applied research related to child development, stress, and mental health.


Degree Field of Study Institution Graduation
Ph.D. Child Psychology University of Minnesota 1998
M.A. Child Psychology University of Minnesota 1995
B.A. Psychology Carleton College 1990


I conduct applied research to evaluate the effectiveness and short- and long-term impact of outreach programs on early brain development, healthy eating and physical activity for young children, appropriate use of technology with children and adults within and outside hospital settings, and other topics. 


I teach HDFS 5130S/7130S: Therapeutic Benefits of Play to help students who will work with children, adolescents, and families in hospitals and other health care settings understand the importance of play activities in supporting healthy development and teaching children how to cope with stress and pain. This course is required for Child Life, and is an elective for students with other healthcare related interests such a occupational therapy and speech language pathology.

I teach HDFS 6900: Issues and Research in Child Life, a fall seminar for second-year MS in Child Life students. During this course, we discuss current research related to concepts in the child life. Students also conduct independent research as part of this course, in preparation for completing a clinical project or thesis.

I have also taught HDFS 2950E: Introduction to Child Development, a fully online course offered during the fall semester, but will be offered online during summer semester beginning in 2018. I have also taught a First Year Odyssey course on Child Life to first-year students interested in the social-emotional needs of children and families in the healthcare setting. My teaching interests include preparing students to work in the healthcare setting, helping students use hands-on developmentally appropriate activities with children and adolescents, and developing interactive online resources and courses to educate adults in formal and informal settings. 

Prior Professional Positions

Organization Title Years of Service
Department of Child and Family Development/Cooperative Extension Assistant Professor and Extension Human Development Specialist 1999-2005
Department of Child and Family Development/Cooperative Extension Public Service Assistant and Extension Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Coordinator 1997-1999


Award Name Awarded By Year Awarded
Outstanding Support by ANR/FACS Professional , Georgia Association of Extension 4-H Agents 2020
Post-Secondary Teacher of the Year Georgia Association of Teachers of Family and Consumer Sciences 2016
Service-Learning Fellow University of Georgia 2006-2007
LEAD 21 Fellow Association of Public and Land Grant Universities 2005-2006
Solnit Fellow Zero to Three National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families 1999-2000

Editorial Appointments

Position Name of Journal Year(s)
Consulting Editor Young Children 2007-2010
Consulting Editor Dimensions of Early Childhood 2014-present


Organization Title Year(s) Service Type
National Association for the Education of Young Children Technology and Young Children Interest Forum Co-Liaison 2013-present professional association
Georgia Association for the Education of Young Children Technology Chair 2012-present professional association


I develop, implement and evaluate Extension programs in early childhood development, including both community-based education for early care and educaitno (ECE) teachers and parenting education. Current programming emphases include (1) promoting awareness of the importance of early brain development for the healthy development of infants and young children through Better Brains for Babies, and (2) helping families and teachers of preschool-age children reduce young children's risk of obesity through the Eat Healthy, Be Active initiative. I have worked with FACS Extension agents to co-author and evaluate two training series for ECE teachers: (1) Basic Core Skills for Child Care, which provides beginning-level training on child abuse, injury prevention and control, and infectious diseases; and (2) Building Baby's Brain, which teaches basic brain development and its applications to teachers working with infants and toddlers. 

Current Research

I am currently leading or co-leading three applied research projects.

Healthy Child Care Georgia

I collaborate with Foods and Nutrition Assistant Professor Caree Cotwright to implement and evaluate luates the effectiveness of a policy, systems, and environment approach, combined with direct nutrition education, to change the nutrition and physical activity environments and practices of early childhood programs in Clarke County, Georgia. We are currently working with PreK teachers in the Clarke County School district to make policy changes related to nutrition and physical activity, and to incorporate a 6-week developmentally appropriate curriculum on nutrition and physical activity into their classroom curriculum for young children. This multi-year project is funded with UGA SNAP-Ed funding.

Preventing Opioid Misuse in Rural Georgia

This is a USDA Rural Health and Safety grant-funded collaboration of Extension professionals and opioid researchers in Public Health, Pharmacy, and Public Affairs to pilot-test community-based interventions to build family strengths, increase community awareness of opioid misuse, and help professionals identify and manage opioid misuse in youth and adults. Current efforts include county needs assessment, developing and implementing programs in 4 rural counties, and evaluating the effectiveness of these programs. This project began in September 2019.

Brain Development

The focus of this effort is to increase use of brain development research to provide appropriate care and nurturing for young children. This effort includes co-leading the Georgia Better Brains for Babies (BBB) initiative, training BBB educators, and developing and disseminating print and online resources on early brain development. BBB training has been adopted by Extension professionals in three states (Georgia, Kansas, and Illinois), and efforts to expand into Tennessee are currently underway.  The applied research component of this project, conducted with undergraduate and graduate student assistants, is evaluating the effectiveness of Better Brains for Babies training in preparing BBB educators to teach brain development to families. 

Journal Articles

Byington, T., Kim, Y., & Bales, D. (2020). Literacy in the early childhood classroom: A SWOT analysis of a multi-state literacy train-the-trainer program. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 8(1), 104-126. 

Stewart, R., Bales, D., Berg, A., & Mull, C. (2019). Extension programs are not a one size fits all: Child passenger safety in culturally diverse audiences. Journal of the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, 14, 31-43.

Hong, J., Bales, D.W., & Wallinga, C. (2018). Using family backpacks to involve families in teaching young children about healthy eating and physical activity. Early Childhood Education Journal, 46(2), 209-221.

Turner, P, Bales, D. W., Thomas, K., Goldschmidt, M, & Fisher-McLean, K. (2017): Program note: Expanding healthy housing and environmental awareness in rural communities through local and national partnerships. Housing and Society, 1 – 18. DOI:10.1080/08882746.2017.1389552.

Cotwright, C., Bales, D., Lee, J., Olubajo, B., **Celestin, N., Parrott, K., & **Jemilugba, F. (2017). Like peas and carrots: Combining wellness policy implementation with classroom education for obesity prevention the child care setting. Public Health Reports, 132, 74S-80S. DOI: 10.1177/0033354917719706

Hong, J., Bales, D., & Wallinga, C. (2017). Using family backpacks to involve families in teaching young children about healthy eating and physical activity. Early Childhood Education Journal. DOI: 10.1007/s10643-017-0848-8Wright, L.M., & Bales, D. (2014). Online professional development for child care providers: Do they have appropriate access to and comfort with the Internet? Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 2(3), 70 – 78.

Bales, D., Wallinga, C., & Coleman, M. (2013). Preparing child care providers to teach nutrition and physical activity to 3- to 5-year-olds: Lessons learned from the Georgia Eat Healthy, Be Active Initiative. Journal of the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, 8, 16-23.

Weigel, D., Weiser, D., Bales, D., & Moyses, K. (2012). Identifying online preferences and needs of early childhood professionals. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 14(2)

Coleman, M., Wallinga, C., & Bales, D. (2010).  Engaging families in the fight against the overweight epidemic among children. Childhood Education, 86 (3), 150-156.

Jayaratne, K. S. U,  Harrison, J. A., and Bales, D. W. (2009). Impact evaluation of food safety self-study Extension programs: Do changes in knowledge relate to changes in behavior of program participants? Journal of Extension, 47. Retrieved July 1, 2009 from http://www.joe.org/joe/2009june/rb1.php.

Coleman , M., Wallinga, C,. & Bales, D. (2009). Addressing the epidemic of childhood overweight through the use of the internet. Dimensions of Early Childhood, 32(1), 32 – 37.

Wallinga, C., Bales, D., & Coleman, M. (2007). Teaching young children about health and safety: Involving community workers in the early childhood classroom. Dimensions of Early Childhood, 35, 25–31.

Bales, D., Wallinga, C., & Coleman, M. (2006). Health and safety in the early childhood classroom: Guidelines for curriculum development. Childhood Education, 82, 132-138.

Bales, D. W. (2005). Sharing the message about early brain development: Georgia’s Better Brains for Babies collaboration. Forum for Family and Consumer Issues, 10. Retrieved October 31, 2005 from http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/pub/10_2/pa3.html.

Rupured, M., Koonce, J., & Bales, D. (2002). Moving the working poor to self-sufficiency. Journal of Extension, 40. Retrieved May 20, 2004 from http://www.joe.org/joe/2002april/a6.html

Miller, D. T., & Bales, D. W. (2001). Using research literature to guide programming decisions: The case of the Eldora Building Academic and Social Skills (B.A.S.S.) program. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 93, 50—53.

Sera, M. D., Bales, D. W., & del Castillo Pintado, J. (1997). Ser helps Spanish speakers identify “real” properties. Child Development, 68, 820—831.

Bales, D. W., & Sera, M. D. (1995). Preschoolers’ understanding of stable and changeable characteristics. Cognitive Development, 10, 69—107.


Bales, D. & Nickerson, S. (2020) Better Brains for Babies website (www.bbbgeorgia.org). In-depth educational website for Better Brains for Babies. Updated site design went live in April 2020.

Bales, D., Roberson, S., Dart, L., Moore, R., Roles, L., & Scredon, K. (2019). Better Brains for Babies Educator’s Guide, Third Edition. Comprehensive Educator’s Guide and presentation slides for Better Brains for Babies two-day Community Outreach Educator training workshop.

Bales, D. W. (2019). Building baby’s brain series of 12 peer-reviewed Extension publications in English and Spanish. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Extension.

Bales, D., Aaron, L. A., Beltran, I., Black, T., Moore, S., Smith, L., & Stewart, R. (2019). Building Baby’s Brain training curriculum. Series of four 2-hour lesson plans co-developed with FACS Extension agents. Topics include Brain Basics; Attachment, Temperament, and Goodness of Fit; Language and Communication; and Stress and Trauma. Standardized tools collect statewide evaluation data.

Turner, P., & Bales, D. (2019). Healthy Environments for Early Care and Education self-paced online training course for ECE teachers on Lead, Injury Prevention and Control, Water Safety and Quality, and Asthma. Additional modules on Radon, Emergency Management, and Energy Conservation are in development. Course is available at https://nick.ugaurbanag.com/course/view.php?id=10.

Bales, D., Coleman, M., & Wallinga, C. (2015).  Eat Healthy, Be Active: An Early Childhood Initiative to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Department of Human Development and Family Science.  Collection of more than 100 hands-on activities to teach nutrition and physical activity to preschool-age children in ECE; includes family activities and bilingual family newsletters to encourage home-school connection. Available at https://www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/eat-healthy-be-active.

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