Early language skills and emotional recognition in children with and without DLD

Griffiths, S., Goh, S. K. Y., & Norbury, C. F. (2020). Early language competence, but not general cognitive ability, predicts children’s recognition of emotion from facial and vocal cues. PeerJ, 8.

Aim of the paper:

Recognising emotions from facial and verbal expressions are important for social interactions. Some researchers think that language plays an important role in emotion recognition because it helps us understand how our emotions match other people’s emotions. Since children with DLD have shown difficulty with emotion recognition in past research, this paper looked at whether early language skills predict later emotion recognition skills for children with and without DLD.

What they found:

  • Early language skills (at age 5-6) predicted later skills in recognising facial and verbal emotions (at age 10-12) for both children with and without DLD. In contrast, early non-verbal cognitive ability did not predict later emotion recognition skills.

  • Children with DLD had poorer emotion recognition skills for both facial and verbal emotion when compared to children without DLD at the same age.

  • Children with and without DLD have similar pattern of errors in emotion recognition, such as not understanding facial emotions of disgust most frequently.

What does this mean?

This paper shows that poor early language does predict poor emotion recognition skills later in life. As mentioned, having poor emotion recognition skills may pose difficulty for social development. It may be that poor early language in children with DLD can also explain their increased risk in poor social and emotional outcomes.

Can intervention that helps children develop their language skills also help with their emotion recognition skills? Findings from this study could not answer this question. However, the researchers found one study that suggests an intervention focusing on emotion-related language skills could help children improve in emotion recognition. Still, further evidence is needed to see whether language intervention can improve children’s emotion recognition in the long term.

Where can I read this paper?

This paper is open access, which means everyone can read it.

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