False belief understanding in children with DLD

Miller, C. A. (2001). False belief understanding in children with specific language impairment. Journal of communication disorders, 34(1-2), 73-86. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0021-9924(00)00042-3


What was the aim?


False beliefs tasks measure a child’s ability to understand that someone else may believe things that are different to their own beliefs. Children’s understanding of differing views is important in cognitive development. Research shows language abilities are a factor in false belief awareness. Children with DLD have poorer language abilities than children of the same age. Their non-linguistic cognitive ability is often not impaired. General cognitive ability is important in false belief awareness. Ten children with DLD, 10 children without DLD and 9 younger children took part in four false belief tasks. The younger children had similar language abilities to the children with DLD. The tasks differed in language complexity regarding the story length and complexity of the sentences.


What was found?


  • When language complexity was low, children with and without DLD of the same age performed similarly.

  • When language complexity was high, children with DLD performed worse than children without DLD of the same age. However, children with DLD performed the same as the younger children with the same language skills.


What does it mean?


The study shows how language ability impacts a child’s false beliefs understanding. Children with DLD were impacted by the language complexity and did worse on tasks with high language difficulty. Children with DLD did have a better false belief understanding than the younger children but could not show this when the language demands were too high. Overall, at lower language demands, the false belief awareness of children with DLD and without DLD is the same. This finding is positive as it shows children with DLD have good false belief understanding. These findings suggest interventions should target children’s ability to understand complex narratives and sentences.


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.