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Department of Psychology


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, recently becoming its Deputy Director 


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. Many of the findings from this longitudinal study are presented in her book  “Social Understanding and Social Lives: from toddlerhood through to the transition to school" that was published as part of the Psychology Press Essays in Developmental Psychology Series and that won the 2014 British Psychological Society Book of the Year award (academic monograph category). 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.


Key publications: 

For a list of publications please see

Directors of Studies Coordinator and Subject Convenor (PBS Tripos)
Deputy Director, Centre for Family Research
Deputy Head (Wellbeing, Equality and Diversity)
Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge
(On sabbatical during Lent, Easter and Michaelmas terms 2017)

Contact Details

Office Phone: +44 (0)1223 (3)34517
Takes PhD students
Not available for consultancy