Professor Bavin's early research was on the acquisition of Warlpiri, an indigenous language spoken in central Australia. More recently her research has focused on assessing young children's language knowledge and language processing skills. Of particular interest has been the topics of late talkers and the cognitive skills of children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). This research has investigated visuo-spatial memory, verbal memory, attention, narrative skills and the numerical cognition of children with SLI. Other projects have investigated the memory and attention of children with SLI and ADHD and the auditory processing skills of 4-7 year olds. Other recent research has been on the language processing of children with autism, using eye tracking technology, and research on the early language development of young children implanted in infancy with cochlear implants. In this project, across four states, infants were recruited prior to implantation and their development followed for 3-4 years.
A long-term research project on which Professor Bavin is a CI is the Early Language in Victoria Study (ELVS), based at the Royal Children's Hospital/Murdoch Children's Research Institute. The study has been investigating the natural history of language and literacy development in a longitudinal study with a sample of 1910 children recruited at 8 months and followed to 14 years.
Professor Bavin served as the editor of the Journal of Child Language (Cambridge University Press), the major journal in the field of language acquisition, from 2006- 2012. She edited the Cambridge Handbook of Child Language, published in 2009 and a 2nd, more comprehensive, edition appeared in 2015. The latter included a section on literacy development and chapters on topics not included in the earlier edition. Collaborative work at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, resulted in a co-edited book, 'The Acquisition of Ergativity'.