Twelfth International Summer School on Mind, Brain and Education

2017 September 1–7

Neuroscience of poverty

Director of the School: Antonio M. Battro
Director of the Course: Sebastián J. Lipina
Codirectors of the Course: Eric Pakulak, María Soledad Segretin
Management Assistance of the Course: Matías Lopez-Rosenfeld
Program Officer of the School: Lula Majdalani

Hughes, Claire
University of Cambridge, UK

Claire Hughes is Deputy Director of the University of Cambridge Centre for Family Research and a Fellow of Newnham College. Claire's PhD and early post-doctoral research examined executive functions in autism. Her current work investigates cultural, cognitive and family influences on childhood behavioural problems and deficits in theory of mind and executive function. In 2011 Claire received one of 400 'Women of the Year' awards. Claire's first book, 'Social Understanding, Social Lives: From Toddlerhood to the Transition to School' won the BPS book of the year for 2013; a second book, about sibling relationships, will be published in 2017


The multi-faceted nature of parental influences on preschoolers’ executive functions and school readiness.
Individual differences in children’s early executive function are related to several aspects of family environment, including: socio-economic status (Noble, McCandliss & Farah, 2007), number of caregivers (e.g., Sarsour et al, 2011) and caregiver wellbeing (Hughes et al REF), raising questions about the mechanisms underpinning these associations and their potential importance for explaining why, compared with their peers, children from disadvantaged communities show higher levels of problem behaviours (Goodnight et al, 2012) and lower levels of academic success (e.g., Locke, Ginsberg & Peers, 2002). Challenging traditional global contrasts between authoritative and authoritarian parenting, my first aim in this paper is to outline the evidence for an alternative differentiated model in which parents can both help and hinder the development of pre-schoolers’ executive functions (e.g., Hughes & Ensor, 2009; Hughes et al, 2017). My second aim is to report on findings that early executive functions play a mediating role in the associations between: (a) parental depression and child problem behaviours (Roman, Ensor & Hughes, 2016); and (b) parental behaviours and children’s early academic ability (Devine, Bignardi & Hughes, 2016). By bridging recent work to evaluate a new brief measure of children’s school readiness (Hughes, Daly, Foley, White & Devine, 2016) and the Wirral Child Health and Development Study (e.g., Vidal-Ribas, Pickles, Tibu, Sharp & Hill, 2017), my third aim is to demonstrate that even in the context of adversity, variability in positive and negative aspects of parenting show distinct associations with children’s self-regulatory skills and cognitive performance.

Literature to share
• Hughes, C., & Devine, R.T. (in press). For better or for worse? Positive and negative parental influences on young children´s executive function. Child Development.
• Devine, R.T., Bignardi, G., & Hughes, C. (2016). Executive function mediates the relations between parental behaviors and children´s early academic ability. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, article 1902, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01902.
• Ellefson, M.R., Fei-Yin, F., Wang, Q., & Hughes, C. (2017). Efficiency of executive function: A two-generation cross-cultural comparison of samples from Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. Psychological Science, 28, 555–566, doi. org/ 10.1177/ 0956797616687812.