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Title: Cognitive behavioural therapy skills in children : the role of executive function, empathy and theory of mind
Author: Carroll, Amy
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2013
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Background and Research Aims: Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) has become an increasingly popular frontline treatment in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Benjamin et al., 2011) and treatment efficacy with children has received significant empirical attention (Graham & Reynolds, 2013). The adaptation of CBT for children has led to the development of tasks intended to assess core CBT skills (such as distinguishing between and linking thoughts, feelings and behaviours, Quakley, 2002). The aim of this study is to explore the relationship between three developmental modalities (executive functioning, empathy and theory of mind) and performance on tasks assessing CBT skill. The developmental modalities were hypothesised to be related to both the demands placed on children by the CBT skills tasks, and to children’s ability to engage in CBT. Method: A quasi-experimental correlational design was employed. Eighty-eight normally developing children between five and eight years old were assessed. Individual assessment with each child included three measures of CBT skill (Quakley, 2002), the Tower of London assessment (Shallice, 1982), age appropriate first and second order theory of mind tasks (Liddle and Nettle, 2006) and a brief measure of IQ (Wechsler, 1999; 2003). In addition one parent of each child was asked to provide parent-report data on their child. This included measures assessing empathy, executive functioning and their child’s overall strengths and weaknesses. Results: Initial exploration of potential confounding variables identified significant effects of age and general intelligence on performance on the both CBT skills tasks and measures of executive functioning, empathy and theory of mind. Through investigation of the research hypotheses, small but significant findings were identified between superior performance on the CBT skills tasks and higher child assessed executive functioning and theory of mind ability. However these results were not maintained when age and IQ were controlled for. No significant relationships were identified between performance of the CBT skills tasks and parent-rated executive functioning or empathy. Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that children’s ability to demonstrate CBT skill is not related to executive functioning, empathy or theory of mind, however CBT skill was significantly influenced by children’s age and IQ. A number of methodological considerations are discussed that suggest that these findings should be interpreted cautiously. Future research should seek to address identified methodological limitations and investigate the validity of the CBT skills tasks employed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available