Genetic and environmental influences on mental health difficulties in young people with DLD

Toseeb, U., Oginni, O. A., & Dale, P. S. (2021). Developmental Language Disorder and Psychopathology: Disentangling Shared Genetic and Environmental Influences. Journal of Learning Disabilities


Aim of the paper:


While individuals with developmental language disorder (DLD) are at higher risk for experiencing mental health difficulties, the severity of mental difficulties varies between each individual. We don’t know much about the factors predicting individual differences in mental health difficulties in individuals with DLD. This study aimed to investigate the genetic and environmental influences on mental health difficulties in young people with and without DLD. Mental health difficulties were examined by looking at internalising and externalising problems.


Key terms:

Internalising problems are characterised by feelings within the self, such as anxiety and depression (American Psychological Association, n.d.)

Externalising problems are characterised by actions in the external world such as aggression and hyperactivity (American Psychological Association, n.d.)


What was found:


· There was a significant genetic correlation between DLD and internalising problems in childhood, suggesting that DLD and internalising problems occur together due to shared genetic influences.

· There were no significant shared genetic influences between DLD and externalising problems in childhood.

· In adolescence, there were no significant shared genetic influences between DLD and internalising or externalising problems.

· Shared environmental influences did not significantly affect internalising or externalising problems in childhood and adolescence.

· Genetic influences on internalising problems, but not externalising problems are greater in young people with DLD than those without DLD.


What does this mean?


The findings suggest that shared genetic influences may provide an explanation for the co-occurrence of DLD and mental health difficulties. Based on the findings, there is a need to identify young people at risk of DLD early so that they can participate in interventions aimed at minimising their risk for developing internalising problems. Further research is needed to investigate specific mechanisms behind the relationship between DLD and mental health difficulties. This may allow us to design interventions to target any intervening mechanisms to help reduce mental health difficulties.


Where can I read this paper?


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

Please click here to find the full paper.