Social cognition in children with Down's syndrome: challenges to research and theory building

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


Characterising how socio-cognitive abilities develop has been crucial to understanding the wider development of typically developing children. It is equally central to understanding developmental pathways in children with intellectual disabilities such as Down's syndrome. While the process of acquisition of socio-cognitive abilities in typical development and in autism has received considerable attention, socio-cognitive development in Down's syndrome has received far less scrutiny. Initial work in the 1970s and 1980s provided important insights into the emergence of socio-cognitive abilities in the children's early years, and recently there has been a marked revival of interest in this area, with research focusing both on a broader range of abilities and on a wider age range. This annotation reviews some of these more recent findings, identifies outstanding gaps in current understanding, and stresses the importance of the development of theory in advancing research and knowledge in this field. Barriers to theory building are discussed and the potential utility of adopting a transactional approach to theory building illustrated with reference to a model of early socio-cognitive development in Down's syndrome. The need for a more extensive model of social cognition is emphasised, as is the need for larger-scale, finer-grained, longitudinal work which recognises the within-individual and within-group variability which characterises this population. The value of drawing on new technologies and of adapting innovative research paradigms from other areas of typical and atypical child psychology is also highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-134
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010

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