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Jenny Gibson


Professor of Developmental Psychology

Chief Scientist Nesta

E-mail Address

Research group webpage



+ 44 (0) 1223 767734


  • PhD, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester
  • MRes, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester
  • BSc (Hons), School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester

Membership of Professional Bodies/Associations

  • Certified Member of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (Registration number: RC0019276)
  • Chartered Psychologist, British Psychological Society (Registration number: 556405)
  • Health and Care Professions Council (Registration number: SL24189)

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Jenny’s research interests lie in the interplay between linguistic and social development from childhood through to adolescence. She studied at University of Manchester where she gained a BSc (Hons) in Speech and Language Therapy, before going on to win ESRC/MRC funding to complete a Master of Research in Psychology followed by a PhD. After her PhD, Jenny went on to do post-doctoral research in child and adolescent mental health in the Department of Developmental Psychiatry, University of Cambridge.

Jenny held a lectureship in Developmental Language and Communication Disorders at the University of East Anglia for one year before coming to the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education as a University Lecturer in Psychology and Education in November 2014.

Jenny is a qualified Speech and Language Therapist and, although she has focused her career mainly on research, she has maintained her clinical registration specialising in assessment and treatment of complex language disorders and autism spectrum conditions.

Academic Area/Links

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Research Topics

Jenny’s research expertise is in the area of autism and developmental language disorders and their impact on mental health and social relationships in childhood. Specific research interests are as follows:

  • Play as a context for studying and promoting child development (especially on school/nursery playgrounds)
  • Social impact and cognitive underpinnings of specific language impairments, pragmatic language impairments and autism
  • Development of non-literal language comprehension and pragmatic language development
  • Peer relationships in middle childhood
  • Links between emotional development and language development
  • School-based interventions for children with additional language and behavioural needs
  • Managing developmental delay in bilingual/multilingual children
  • Decision-making in the allocation of resources to meet additional educational needs
  • Evidence-based policy for social issues

Current Research Project(s)

  • 2017-2019 - ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative: Using genetic and environmental risks to understand variation in social, emotional, and educational outcomes in individuals with language impairments. Principal Investigator Dr. Umar Toseeb. Co-Investigators Dr. Jenny Gibson and Dr. Diane Newbury.
  • 2016-2020 Arts & Humanities Research Council: 'Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals and Transforming Societies'. PI Prof Wendy Bennett, total grant £4 million. Strand 6, co-PIs Bak, Gibson, Katsos, 'Multilingualism and cognition: implications for motivation, health and well-being'. Strand budget: £530,000
  • 2016-2017 ESRC Impact Acceleration Award, £ 18,907, App-based Language Assessment for use by Parents and Professionals, Co-Investigator Dr. Jenny Gibson with Dr. Napoleon Katsos as PI.
  • 2016-2017 ESRC Transformative Research Grant, £ 245,717, Hi-tech Observation of Children’s Playground Social Communication Trajectories, Principal Investigator Dr. Jenny Gibson co-investigators Prof. Steve Hailes, Prof. David Skuse
  • 2015-2018 LEGO Foundation Research Grant, Understanding Children's Relationships with Peers through Play. Principal investigator Dr. Jenny Gibson, co-investigator Dr. Elian Fink

Prospective PhD Applications - open

Please contact me if you are interested in doing a PhD with my group.

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  • Postgraduate
    • PhD supervisor/advisor
    • MPhil in Psychology and Education Route Co-ordinator
    • MPhil / MEd supervisor
    • MPhil/MEd (Psychology and Education) project supervision
    • MPhil (Educational Research)
  • Undergraduate
    • Education Tripos
      • Language, Communication and Literacy
      • Social and emotional development

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Principal and Recent Publications

Zhao, Y. V., & Gibson, J. L. (2023). Early home learning support and home mathematics environment as predictors of children's mathematical skills between age 4 and 6: A longitudinal analysis using video observations and survey data. Child Development.

Pritchard-Rowe, E., de Lemos, C., Howard, K., and Gibson, J. L. (2023). Diversity in Autistic Play: Autistic Adults' Experiences. Autism in Adulthood.

Sher, D.A., & Gibson, J.L. (2023). Pioneering, prodigious and perspicacious: Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva’s life and to conceptualising autism and schizophrenia. European Child Adolescent Psychiatry. 32, 475–490 .

St Clair, M., Horsham, J., Lloyd-Esenkaya, V., Jackson, E., Gibson, J., Leitão, S. et al. (2023) The Engage with Developmental Language Disorder (E-DLD) project: Cohort profile. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 58, 929–943.

Friedman, S., Noble, R., Archer, S., Gibson, J., & Hughes, C. (2023). Respite and connection: Autistic adults’ reflections upon nature and well-being during the Covid-19 pandemic. Autism. (13 pages)

Francis, G. A., & Gibson, J. L. (2023). A plausible role of imagination in pretend play, counterfactual reasoning, and executive functions. British Journal of Psychology.

Goodacre, E. J., Fink, E., Ramchandani, P., & Gibson, J. L. (2023). Building connections through play: Influences on children's connected talk with peers. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 41, 203–226. (23 pages)

Blaskova, L. J., & Gibson, J. L. (2023). Children with language disorder as friends: Interviews with classroom peers to gather their perspectives. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 39(1), 39–57. (18 pages)

Zhao. V. Y. & Gibson, J. L. (2022). Evidence for protective effects of peer play in the early years: better peer play ability at age 3 predicts lower risks of externalising and internalising problems at age 7 in a longitudinal cohort analysis. Child Psychiatry & Human Development.