Research projects: PhD/MPhil

PhD/MPhil projects: A-Z

Social Cognition in Looked after Children


Looked after children (LAC) are a group who are consistently identified to be at risk of psychopathology and poor social outcomes.  The majority of LAC enter the care system having being exposed to multiple and chronic adversities. Studies of institutionalised children have shown specific social impairments to be a consequence of a lack of individualised care. These impairments are referred to as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).  Interpersonal relationship functioning has been identified as a consistent correlate of both risk for poor outcome and resilience.

This study tested the hypothesis that adolescent LAC would show evidence of RAD behaviour as well as deficits and biases in the processes which facilitate successful relationship functioning: social cognition. 

Two social cognitive processes - Social Information Processing and Theory of Mind were assessed in a sample of LAC and low risk adolescents recruited from high schools in Greater Manchester who were matched for demographic variables. Psychopathology, social relationship functioning, global functioning and RAD behaviour were also assessed by way of comparison with the control sample and the use of standardised instruments.

Duration of the project


Funding bodies

Youth Justice Board

Medical Research Council

University of Manchester

Members of the project

Dr Catherine (Katie) KayPhD student
Professor Jonathan GreenSupervisor

This study examined the relationship between exposure to maltreatment and adversity in childhood with social cognition and a range of developmental outcomes in a sample of maltreated adolescents in local authority care.