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DLD and Mid Adulthood outcomes: Employment, Literacy and Mental Health

Law, J., Rush, R., Schoon, I., & Parsons, S. (2009). Modeling developmental language difficulties from school entry into adulthood: literacy, mental health, and employment outcomes. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 52(6), 1401–1416.

Aim of the paper:

This study looked at how demographic factors and biological factors are linked to Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) with and without low non-verbal IQ. Additionally, they looked at how these factors predict literacy, mental health and employment status during adulthood.

Demographic factors included gender, whether the mother was a single parent and parental reading. Biological factors included the size of the baby at birth, maternal smoking during pregnancy and whether the child displays antisocial behaviours.

What was found:

  • There was a relationship between demographic and biological factors and the risk of DLD . The link was stronger in the DLD with low non-verbal IQ

  • DLD without low non-verbal IQ does not present itself as much of a risk factor towards mental health in the long run, compared to DLD with low non-verbal IQ, which was strongly linked with poor mental health.

  • DLD was a risk factor for unemployment. This risk was increased if the mother was a single parent, lived in overcrowded housing and the child had no pre-school experience and displayed antisocial behaviours.

  • Risk of poor literacy in adulthood was significant for the DLD groups. This risk was increased if the child’s mother smoked during pregnancy, left education at the minimum age, and was a single parent.

What does this mean?

This study suggests the influence of factors present in childhood can have long-term impacts on mental health, employment status and literacy in adulthood, especially for those with DLD associated with Nonverbal IQ problems. From this, it would be useful to look into demographic factors which can be changed, such as parental reading, housing, pre-schooling experience, and discouraging antisocial behaviour. Improving these early experiences may improve adult outcomes in individuals with DLD.

Where can I read this paper?

This paper is not open access so we cannot provide a link at this time.

If you wish to read the full paper, please email


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