Executive function in children with DLD

Kalliontzi, E., Ralli, A. M., Palikara, O., & Roussos, P. (2022). Examining the relationship between oral language skills and executive functions: Evidence from Greek-speaking 4–5-year-old children with and without Developmental Language Disorder. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 124, 104215. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2022.104215


What was the aim?


Research shows that children with DLD have poorer executive function abilities. However, most of this research has only investigated English speaking children. Differences in how language and executive function abilities are related may be due to different language traits. Therefore, this study assessed language and executive function abilities of Greek-speaking 4–5-year-olds with DLD and without DLD. 53 children with DLD and 62 children without DLD were studied.


  • Executive Functions refer to cognitive processes that help children control their behaviour and direct their attention to help achieve goals. This includes resisting impulses and managing your own behaviour to achieve goals.


What was found?


  • Children with DLD performed significantly worse on all language measures than children without DLD.

  • Children with DLD performed significantly worse on nonverbal updating and verbal and nonverbal cognitive flexibility tasks than children without DLD. The updating task involved comparing a picture with the previously shown one. For example, children need to say whether the new picture was in the same location as the previous one.

  • There were no significant differences in inhibition scores for children with or without DLD.

  • Nonverbal updating and inhibition skills and cognitive flexibility predicted story comprehension in children with DLD.

  • Updating, nonverbal inhibition and cognitive flexibility predicted oral comprehension, narrative speech, and total language ability for children without DLD.


What does it mean?


These results show the link between language and executive function for Greek-speaking children with and without DLD. Overall children with DLD had poorer language and executive function abilities. The differences in verbal and nonverbal scores between the groups could be due to the children without DLD having better language abilities. Interventions should focus on improving both the language and executive function skills of children with DLD, as both factors are related.


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.