How young offenders view their language abilities in different contexts

Fitzsimons, D., & Clark, A. (2021). Pausing mid-sentence: An ecological model approach to language disorder and lived experience of young male offenders. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(3), 1225.



What was the aim?


Previous research has identified that 60-90% of young offenders have DLD. However, less research has studied how the offenders view their own language abilities. DLD impacts how effectively an offender can engage with processes in the criminal justice system, such as following bail conditions. Therefore, this study investigated how young offenders viewed their language and communication abilities in different social contexts, such as with family or professionals. This study also assessed them for language disorders. Ten young men in custody who had a recent experience of segregation were studied.


What was found?


  • 4 out of 9 individuals, or 44% of the sample, had DLD.

  • For core language scores 5 out of 9 individuals (56%) had average scores, 2 out of 9 individuals (22%) were below average and 2 out of 9 individuals (22%) were in the low/severe range.

  • Individuals with DLD were more likely to have their behaviour interpreted as non-compliance.

  • Few individuals reported successful interactions with figures, such as family members or the police.

  • Some individuals were aware of their language difficulties. For example, some reported that they sometimes struggled to get their point across.


What does it mean?


The studied identified the high rates of DLD among young offenders. With this disorder reducing the individual’s opportunity to engage with peers or processes such as bail conditions. This means they are less likely to understand their bail conditions, which may increase their involvement in antisocial interactions. Their speech is more likely to be misinterpreted as non-compliance, which could have a negative impact on their relationships with peers and authority figures. The results identify and strengthen the need for speech and language therapy to be implemented in the criminal justice system to facilitate young offenders. In addition, creating awareness for the high level of DLD amongst young offenders for staff members.


Where can I read this paper?


This paper is open access meaning everyone can read it.

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