Parent and child-report of alexithymia in children with and without DLD

Hobson, H., & Bedem, N. P. (2021). The Association between Parent and Child-Report Measures of Alexithymia in Children with and without Developmental Language Disorder. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(16), 8309.


Aim of the paper:


Some researchers have argued that language impairments can lead to the development of alexithymia. However, the low level of agreement between child and parent reports of alexithymia has made it difficult to identify accurate measures of alexithymia and what role language impairments play in it. This study aimed to examine the agreement between child and parent report measures of alexithymia in children with and without developmental language disorder (DLD). The association between alexithymia and communication difficulties was also examined. The children were between 9-16 years old, with an average age of around 12 years old.


Key term:

Alexithymia: an inability to recognise and describe one’s own emotions. For example, not knowing what caused them to feel angry or having difficulty effectively expressing what they feel.


What was found:


• There was no significant association between the child and parent report measures of alexithymia in either children with or without DLD.

• Compared to those without DLD, children with DLD scored higher on measures of parent-reported alexithymia but not on child-report measures.

• Pragmatic language abilities (i.e., the ability to appropriately use language in social situations, such as starting a conversation) were related to parent-reported alexithymia in both children with and without DLD.

• Structural language abilities (i.e., the ability related to language form and content, such as grammar and vocabulary) were not related to parent-reported alexithymia in children with DLD.


What does this mean?


The findings indicate that there are often differences and disagreements between how children and parents report alexithymia in both children with and without DLD. Because the lack of agreement was also found in those without DLD, it suggests that the disagreement between child and parent reports is not simply due to communication problems in the DLD group. Professionals working with children with DLD should be aware of the alexithymia-related impairments the child may have during psychological therapy or intervention sessions in order to increase its effectiveness. This will be especially important when such interventions require adequate emotional expression skills for progress.


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.