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Professor Claire Hughes

Professor Claire Hughes

Professor of Developmental Psychology

Fellow and Director of Studies at Newnham College, Cambridge

Directors of Studies Coordinator and Subject Convenor (PBS Tripos)

Office Phone: (+44) 01223 334517


Claire Hughes completed her first degree and her PhD (on the topic of executive function in autism) at the University of Cambridge. She then spent two years in Paris as a post-doctoral research fellow, where she worked at the Hopital Robert Debre and INSERM at the University of Paris V, investigating executive functions in parents and siblings of children with autism. Returning to the UK, Claire worked for 6 years at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre where she collaborated with Professor Judy Dunn in two parallel studies of 'hard to manage' preschoolers and typically developing preschool friends. Claire then returned to Cambridge and joined the Centre for Family Research. For the past fifteen years, she has conducted a series of studies (funded principally by the ESRC) following up a socially diverse sample of children (recruited at age 2 and filmed at multiple time-points interacting with mothers, siblings, friends and unfamiliar peers) in order to examine the origins and consequences of individual differences in theory of mind and executive function for children's social relationships and adjustment to primary and secondary school. Dr Rosie Ensor was a key collaborator for the first 4 years of this longitudinal study; more recent waves have been conducted in collaboration with Dr Rory Devine, Dr Naomi White and Ms Sarah Foley. Her other studies include international collaborative investigations into theory of mind and executive function in children from different cultures as well as more applied work developing tools for teachers to identify children likely to benefit from extra support during the transition to school. In the past year, Claire and her team have launched a new international study (with collaborators in New York and the Netherlands) of the transition to parenthood and the role of early parent-infant interactions in mediating relations between prenatal wellbeing (in both fathers and mothers) and the early development of executive control and self-regulation. 


cognitive development ; conduct problems ; autism spectrum disorders ; executive functioning and theory of mind ; antisocial behaviour

Key Publications

Journal articles from 2010-2013

Ensor, R., & Hughes, C. (2010). With a Little Help from My Friends: Maternal Social Support, via Parenting, Promotes Willingness to Share in Preschoolers Born to Young Mothers. Infant and Child Development. 19, 127–141


Ensor, R., Marks, A., & Hughes, C. (2010). Trajectories of antisocial behaviour towards siblings predict antisocial behaviour towards peers. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry & Allied Disciplines, 51, 1208-1216


Hughes, C., Ensor, R., Wilson, A., & Graham, A. (2010). Tracking Executive Function Across the Transition to School: A Latent Variable Approach. Developmental Neuropsychology, 35, 20-36.


Hughes, C., Marks, A., Ensor, R. & Lecce, S. (2010). A Longitudinal Study of Conflict and Inner State Talk in Children’s Conversations with Mothers and with Younger Siblings. Social Development, 19, 822-837.


Lecce, S., & Hughes, C. (2010). ‘The Italian job?’: Comparing theory of mind performance in British and Italian children. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 28,  747-766.


Ensor, R., Spencer, D., & Hughes, C. (2011). 'You feel sad?'  Emotion Understanding Mediates Predictors of Prosocial Behaviour: Findings from 2-to 4-years. Social Development. 20, pp. 93-110


Ensor, R., Hart, M., Jacobs, L., Hughes, C. (2011). Gender differences in children's problem behaviours in competitive play with friends British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 29, pp. 176-187.


Hughes, C., & Ensor, R. (2011). Individual Differences in Growth in Executive Function Across the Transition to School Predict Externalizing and Internalizing Behaviors and Children's Self-Perceived Academic Success at Age 6. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology (special issue on Executive Functions).108, 663-676


Hughes, C. & Ensor, R. (2011). Individual differences in false-belief understanding are stable from ages 3 to 6 and predict children's mental state talk with friends.  Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.  108, 96-112.


Hughes, C., (2011). Changes and challenges in 20 years of research into the development of executive function Infant and Child Development, 20 251-271.


Lecce, S., Caputi, M., Hughes, C. (2011). Does sensitivity to criticism mediate the relationship between theory of mind and academic achievement? Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 110 313-331.


Ensor, R., Roman, G., & Hughes, C., (2012) Mothers’ Depressive Symptoms and Low Mother-Toddler Mutuality Both Predict Children’s Maladjustment. Infant and Child Development, 21, 52-66 


Devine, R.T., & Hughes, C. (2013): Silent Films and Strange Stories: Theory of mind, gender and social experiences in middle childhood.  Child Development. 84, 989-1003.;jsessionid=6EAF1EF433FF98ED8D2D9CBEA3D9DDEB.f03t02


Hughes, C., Roman, G., Hart, M.J & Ensor, R. (2013). Does Maternal Depression Predict Young Children’s Executive Function? A 4-year Longitudinal Study.  Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 169-177.