Is theory of mind related to social dysfunction and emotional problems in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (velo-cardio-facial syndrome)?

J Neurodev Disord. 2011 Jun;3(2):152-61. doi: 10.1007/s11689-011-9082-7. Epub 2011 May 5.


Social dysfunction is intrinsically involved in severe psychiatric disorders such as depression and psychosis and linked with poor theory of mind. Children with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS, or velo-cardio-facial syndrome) have poor social competence and are also at a particularly high risk of developing mood (40%) and psychotic (up to 30%) disorders in adolescence and young adulthood. However, it is unknown if these problems are associated with theory of mind skills, including underlying social-cognitive and social-perceptual mechanisms. The present cross-sectional study included classic social-cognitive false-belief and mentalising tasks and social-perceptual face processing tasks. The performance of 50 children with 22q11DS was compared with 31 age-matched typically developing sibling controls. Key findings indicated that, while younger children with 22q11DS showed impaired acquisition of social-cognitive skills, older children with 22q11DS were not significantly impaired compared with sibling controls. However, children with 22q11DS were found to have social-perceptual deficits, as demonstrated by difficulties in matching faces on the basis of identity, emotion, facial speech and gaze compared with sibling controls. Furthermore, performance on the tasks was associated with age, language ability and parentally rated social competence and emotional problems. These results are discussed in relation to the importance of a better delineation of social competence in this population.