Close relationships in adolescents with and without DLD.

Wadman, R., Durkin, K., & Conti-Ramsden, G. (2011). Close relationships in adolescents with and without a history of specific language impairment. Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools,42(1), 41-51.


Aim of the paper:


Communication skills such as starting conversations and listening have been shown to support the process of forming close friendships. As communication skills are strongly related to language abilities, it is necessary to explore the role of language ability in the development and maintenance of close relationships. This study aimed to compare emotional engagement in close relationships in adolescents with and without a history of developmental language disorder (DLD). The influence of language, behavioural, and social factors on the level of emotional engagement was also examined.


Key term:

Emotional engagement: the feelings that individuals experience and share in their close relationships. For example, whether an individual feels sad for their friend.


What was found:

  • Adolescents with DLD had significantly lower emotional engagement scores compared to those without DLD. However, 76% of adolescents with DLD did have adequate close relationships.

  • The majority of adolescents with or without DLD reported that they have had at least one close friend.

  • In terms of romantic relationships, fewer adolescents with DLD reported having had a girlfriend or boyfriend compared to those without DLD.

  • Language ability, prosocial behaviour, and shyness jointly predicted emotional engagement in close relationships.


What does this mean?


While most adolescents with DLD have adequate close relationships, some adolescents with DLD can be at a higher risk of poor emotional engagement within these relationships. As such, emotional engagement is a potential relative weakness for these adolescents. Language ability alone however did not influence levels of emotional engagement in close relationships, suggesting it is not the sole factor that determines such engagement. Therefore, despite having lower language abilities, individuals with DLD can develop emotional engagement in close relationships by showing good prosocial behaviour such as sharing and helping. The authors suggested that when providing interventions for adolescents with DLD, schools and professionals should also offer support in social and relationship issues alongside working on language abilities.


Where can I read this paper?


This paper is not open access. If you wish to read the full paper, please email E-DLD@bath.ac.uk and request a copy of the paper.