Supporting the Executive Function Development of Children in Foster Care using Conjoint Consultation

  • Patrick Mcardle

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


The educational achievement and well-being of looked after children are a priority nationally and locally. The majority of looked after children enter the care system due to abuse and neglect and foster care is the most common placement type (DfE, 2012). Early experience of abuse and neglect is associated with changes to development in the frontal brain regions resulting in executive function difficulty. Executive functions are a collection of interrelated but distinct functions with responsibility for purposeful, goal-directed, problem-solving behaviour (Gioia, Isquith, Guy, & Kenworthy, 2000). Evidence of neural plasticity in the prefrontal cortex suggests executive function development can be supported. The two main methods of support are computer based training, such as in working memory training which yields immediate gains but may not be sustained or generalised (Melby-LervÄg & Hulme, 2013) and ecological executive function interventions, which are promising but are mainly used with pre-school samples (Bryck & Fisher, 2012).Parental involvement in children's education is promoted nationally (DCSF, 2008) and valued by carers (Cooper & Johnson, 2007). Consultations between carers and professionals can indirectly support fostered children (Osborne & Alfano, 2011) but few studies have evaluated the use of consultation to support executive function development in fostered children (Lansdown, Burnell, & Allen, 2007). A multiple case-study design, with embedded units of analysis, was adopted to qualitatively explore the implementation processes and outcomes of a school-based intervention that adapted conjoint behavioural consultation (CBC) (Sheridan & Kratochwill, 2007) to support executive function development of children in foster care. Both cases consisted of a school-aged fostered child, living in the north west of England, with prior experience of abuse and/or neglect. The participants across cases were two educators and three carers and data gathering consisted of semi-structured interviews and participant-observation. Data analysis utilised thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) and a cross-case analysis (Yin, 2009) identified common themes alongside themes pertinent to each case. The findings indicate that an adapted CBC retains the relational objectives which are received positively by participants but outcome objectives are more variable. The limitations of the study and the implications for educational psychologists, stakeholders, and future research are highlighted.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCaroline Bond (Supervisor) & Garry Squires (Supervisor)


  • Consultation Looked after Children
  • Looked after Children
  • Executive Function
  • Parental engagement

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