UCL News


Girls' ability with language helps social interaction

22 January 2009


UCL Institute of Child Health lww.com/jaacap/Abstract/2009/02000/Social_Communication_Competence_and_Functional.6.aspx" target="_self">Article abstract
  • UCL Institute of Child Health
  • Professor David Skuse
  • Dr William Mandy
  • A team of researchers from UCL's Institute of Child Health (ICH) and Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology have identified a correlation between natural ability to use language well and social communication competence according to gender.

    In an article published in the current issue of the 'Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry', Professor David Skuse and Dr William Mandy, lead authors of the study, show that above-average verbal IQ seems to confer protection against social communication impairments in girls but not in boys.

    "For girls, the better their verbal skills, the less likely there was to be impairment. However, for boys, high verbal IQ was not protective against social communication impairment - there was a set of verbally able but socially impaired boys, sometimes very high performing in intelligence," said Professor Skuse and Dr Mandy.

    The findings form part of a study which aimed to ascertain the population distribution of children with mild social communicative deficits of whom the there are far more than the number diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). The research found that in terms of social communication difficulties there was continuous distribution from those with no impairments through to those most severely affected.

    These findings are important for clinicians and education professionals who need to be aware that there are children who do not have autism but who nevertheless have somewhat elevated levels of autistic traits. Even such traits, the study shows, are associated with an increased risk of behavioural, social and emotional problems at school.


    UCL Context: UCL Institute of Child Health
    The UCL Institute of Child Health is the leading British academic research institution for child health. Established in 1945, it aims to improve the health and wellbeing of children through world-class research, education and public engagement. Research is carried out in seven main themes: biochemical and nutritional sciences; cancer; cardio-respiratory sciences; genes, development and diseases; infection and immunity; neurosciences and mental health; and population health sciences.  

    The institute published this week a study on the benefits of minimally invasive baby surgery.