Depressive and anxiety symptoms in adolescents with DLD

Wadman, R., Botting, N., Durkin, K., & Conti‐Ramsden, G. (2011). Changes in emotional health symptoms in adolescents with specific language impairment. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 46(6), 641-656.


Aim of the paper:


Adolescents with developmental language disorder (DLD) can be at a higher risk for developing mental health difficulties. As adolescence is a period of rapid growth and transition, it is important to investigate whether DLD can continue to be a risk factor for mental health difficulties throughout adolescence. This study aimed to examine self-reported depressive and anxiety symptoms in adolescents with and without DLD at 16 years old, and one year later. The contribution of other factors such as behavioural problems was also examined.


What was found:


• 16-year-old adolescents with DLD experienced significantly more depressive and anxiety symptoms than adolescents without DLD.

• At 17 years adolescents with DLD continued to experience more anxiety symptoms than adolescents without DLD.

• Adolescents with DLD showed a significant drop in depressive symptoms between 16 and 17 years.

• There was no significant difference in depressive symptoms between adolescents with and without DLD at 17 years.

• Having more peer problems was associated with more depressive symptoms at 16 and 17 years in adolescents with DLD.

• Language ability and non-verbal IQ did not predict depressive symptoms at 16 or 17 years for adolescents with and without DLD.


What does this mean?


The findings indicate that adolescents with DLD are at greater risk of depressive and anxiety symptoms, but depressive symptoms can improve over the age of 16 to 17. The authors suggested that the end of compulsory education at age 16 and changes in educational expectations may have led to the decrease in depressive symptoms in adolescents with DLD. However, further research is needed to investigate what aspects and experiences after the age of 16 can have a positive effect on mental health. To help adolescents with DLD who have high levels of anxiety, professionals working with individuals with DLD should provide specific support in managing individuals’ anxiety. It could also be beneficial to provide therapeutic support to individuals with DLD who experience peer problems such as bullying to decrease their risk of experiencing depressive symptoms.


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.